Director General -Ambassador Prasad

Honourable Shri Manohar Parrikar

Ladies and Gentlemen:


Good morning


  • Thank you and honour - First of all, let me thank Ambassador Prasad for inviting me to this very important It is quite an honor and privilege to be the keynote speaker for the 19th Asian Security Conference.
  • Congratulations - Also, let me congratulate Amb Prasad, his colleagues and the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) for developing the Asian Security Conference as a genuine and effective forum for our region and the global community to openly discuss the defining challenges of our collective security at present time.
  • Growing threat to our collective security - As thinkers and organizers of the conference rightly suggest, Ladies and gentlemen, our collective security in the region and the future of our children is seriously challenged by the growing threat of terrorism and violent extremism.
  • Intend to speak about Afghanistan- today, I intend to speak about Afghanistan and its immediate surrounding where terrorism does not only continue to take a heavy toll on Afghan people but it intends to threaten the entire region and the global


  • Moving sanctuaries into Afghanistan - Global regional, Pakistani and Afghan terrorists continue to move their sanctuaries from outside Afghanistan into the country to pursue their goals beyond
  • Not just for Afghanistan- Our fight against terrorism is therefore not just for our security but on behalf of the region and the world


Ladies and gentlemen:

  • Why does Afghanistan matter? The region we share with Pakistan has the highest concentration of terrorist networks anywhere in the world: 20 out of98 S.-designated terrorist groups globally are operating there to pursue their goals beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  • What enables them to do so despite the ongoing US, NATO and Afghanistan CT mission is the presence of sanctuaries, symbiotic relations with other state and non-state actors providing crucial support

•  Success against terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan region is therefore of vital national security interest to every country of the region and d1e world community at large.

  • Lessons learned from the Afghan experience are therefore of vital importance to shape national, regional and global responses to the menace of terrorism at a time when we have a common enemy but not a common strategy to defeat
  • Four key points: Let me therefore my perspectives to contribute to the debates of d1e conference in four key points:

First, terrorism in our region is morphing to adapt in pursuit of its political and criminal-economic ends

•  Distinct ecology, system and industry- Since 9/11, the terrorism in the region has morphed producing a distinct ecology, system and industry.

  • Symbiotic axis- It is no longer, a lone wolf, a violent extremist organization or a rogue state alone; it is a symbiotic axis of violent extremism, criminal-economics and state sponsorship of
  • The four groups- In the Af-Pak region, we see four groups of terrorist networks: (1) Afghans including Taliban and the HQN, (2) Pakistanis such as LeT, JeM, TTP, LeJ, (3) Regional networks of IMU, ETIM and Ansarullah, and (4) Global such as AI Qaeda and
  • Symbiotic relationships with criminal and states- All of these groups have established symbiotic relationships among themselves but also with criminal-economic groups including narcotics and with secrete state
  • Sustainment- These relationships sustain them with Finance, recruitment and support structures.
  • Dispel the myths: looking at these facts, one will have to dispel the commonly held myths:
  1. Not a civil war- Afghanistan is not a civil war given the multiplicity of actors on the two sides. It is a drug war, it is a terrorist war, and it is also a state-to-state undeclared And it is not going to be confined to Afghanistan.
  2. Distinction between good and bad terrorism will produce Frankenstein 1onster and therefore a perpetrator will also be a
  3. Associating terrorism with Islam is technically wrong as it does not allow for true understanding, ethically immoral as it fails to appreciate the sacrifices of Muslims victims and those who have been fighting terrorism and politically unwise to alienate a natural ally­ Afghanistan partnership with US and NATO, the Islamic world and India against terrorism and the rejection of terrorism by Islamic world scholars in Mecca in 2015 are a case in
  • Implications: understanding the above facts will have important implications for a common strategy to counter-terrorism and peace and reconciliation.

Second, ironically, despite the CT globally, it has grown its capabilities to threaten our region and the world community,

  • Development of capabilities: Access to sanctuaries, financing, recruitment, training and other support enablers, through symbiotic relations with some state elements and criminal economic networks, has actually enabled the four groups of terror networks not only to survive CT operations but actually develop their lethal
  • Terror strength - We estimate the number of the fighters these groups have deployed at some 40,000 to 45,000 of whom roughly one fourth is foreign including global, regional and Pakistani Jehadists.
  • Displacement effect - The Pakistani operation of Zarb e Azb and the increased pressures on Daesh and AI Qaeda in the Middle East have had displacement effect leading to the concentration of these groups in Af-Pak
  • Common and individual terrorists' goals - Despite their common desire to destroy the Afghan state so that the can establish safe heavens in Afghanistan, these groups pursue individual goals against other
  • Every country of the region threatened - While AI Qaeda and Daesh pursue a global jehadi agenda, LeT and JeM are aimed against Regional actors such IMU, ETIM, and their associates increasingly threaten China, Russia, Iran and Central Asia.
  • Pakistan targeted Also, while most of the Pakistani based networks threaten security of other nations, the TIP and its splinter groups are waging violence in Pakistan.
  • Highest cost for Afghanistan Launched highest number of attacks in all regions and inflicted the highest number of casualties in the past one and half decades;
    • KIA: 10,432 (25% civilians) 10% increase over 2015, 28 persons a day,
    • Total KIA and WIA: 29,728 combined, (2% reduction), 81 persons a day
  • Held our ground Despite this high cost, we have held our ground defending Afghanistan and the region.
  • Grateful- to S., NATO, India, China and Russia for their support
  • Stalemate -True there is stalemate but Afghanistan is fighting and holding its ground with less than one tenth of the international troops deployed between 2009 and 2014 and no change in the sanctuary


Third, the inadequacy of response has made the terrorism challenge of our time even worse,

  • Breakdown of regional consensus The most serious danger to the regional and world security comes from the continued breakdown of regional consensus over terrorism as result of disputes, rivalries and Incompatible interests elsewhere.
  • Three points of consensus- The consensus so far has been: (1) no distinction between good and bad terrorists, (2) the centrality of state-to-state relations and cooperation In CT and (3) security for all against terror
  • Selectivity- We see selectivity and the distinction between good and bad terrorists these da
  • A new trend among some regional actors to work with Afghan Taliban against apparently D
  • Wrong policy will backfire- A wrong policy that will certainly backfire:


  • Taliban Still continue to kill
  • All other terrorists including their enemies are able to operate from the Af-Pak region because of Taliban and state tolerance of sanctuari


  • Contacts for peace and not for war we have urged our regional partners to use their contacts with Taliban for peace and not for war.


Fourth, a common strategy against a common enemy is the only way to save our nations, our region and the world community against terrorism.

·        Common understanding- Given the growing evidence, the starting point should be a common understanding of our common enemy.

  • Some highlights- The purpose is to highlight some key dimensions and principles of the common strategy:
  • Generational challenge: there is an emerging consensus that it is likely to be a generational challenge for the next two decades.
  • Four level action- A coordinated strategy of diplomatic, security and development actions at four levels: global, Islamic, regional and national
  1. End sponsorship and tolerance- the number one priority of the strategy should be ending sponsorship of terrorism by persuasion or coercion actions against states and individuals.
  2. Coordinated responses - Coordinated intelligence, military and diplomatic responses to remove sanctuaries, recruitment, training, equipping and financing infrastructure,
  3. National action to address the governance, poverty and educational challenges,
  4. Regional support for CT- Support for the S., NATO and Afghan CT operations -

5.   Peace and Reconciliation -Afghan peace and reconciliation based on Afghan constitution and renunciation of violence and ties with foreign terrorists is key to broader CT.



Thank you

India Has Been Very Supportive and Generous: Afghan Envoy


Shaida Mohammad Abdali is the Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to India since 2012 and the non-resident Afghan Ambassador to Bhutan, Maldives and Nepal. He has steered bilateral relationship between Kabul and New Delhi through challenging times as the two nations have worked to forge ties for the reconstruction of Afghanistan and fight against terrorism. During his stint in India, he has authored a book ‘Afghanistan Pakistan India: A Paradigm Shift' which calls for 1he need to end conflicts in the region and focus energies on defeating terrorism and for socio-economic development.

Ambassador Abdali spoke to Rashmi Saksena of IRA on a wide range of issues in his characteristic candid style: Excerpts

Q: Religious extremism is on the rise across the world despite the Global War on Terrorism. Why?

A: We as a region, as a world must acknowledge that we have failed in our struggle to fight terrorism and extremism. If we don't, we will simply be throwing sand in the eyes of those who ask for change. Politicians have been just playing with words and terminology that have been used as a norm of diplomacy and state relations. The present strategy is not successful because it is not based on ground realities.  It was crafted and implemented without including opinions of all stakeholders. Countries which call themselves warriors in GWOT have not listened to countries like Afghanistan. We asked for a fight against terrorism prior to 9/11, when the Taliban backed by foreign actors, ruled Afghanistan. We were not heard. We were glad that attention came our way after 9/11 and the world intervened. Later, the double play of those who called themselves allies in GWOT affected international efforts to fight terror.

Q:  What is the way ahead in 2017?

A: There has to be a review of GWOT efforts of the last fifteen years. There has to be global consensus on GWOT. Opinions should be taken from everyone. Based on the failures we should rethink our strategy and recognize who is sincere in fighting terror.

Q: There is a resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Other groups have come into play too. How do you see this impacting Afghanistan in 2017?

A: Not only the Taliban, but dozens of other terror groups under various labels are fighting us in the region and beyond. Taliban Afghanistan, Pakistan Taliban, LeT (lashkar-e-Taiba). When you talk about terrorism and extremism in Afghanistan you must understand its spillover effect. Afghanistan is now a bridge for those elements to cross-over into other countries. When we fight terrorism it should always be in the regional context as well as the global context because these groups have links within this region and beyond.

Q: Is the Daesh also fanning out in Afghanistan?

A: Absolutely. Now you see a new brand, a harsher ideology than Taliban's, of distorted mentality of those who claim they are fighting for Islam which undoubtedly they are not representing

Q: What is the penetration of Daesh, or the Islamic State, in Afghanistan?

A: The Daesh in Afghanistan have allegiance to the same ideology, but their training, activity and recruitment is different. In Afghanistan Daesh elements are Pakistani nationals from the Orakzai tribe. They are active in Afghanistan and are being combated. Some of them may have been recruited from the Taliban. You just see the replacement of the white flag with the black. For Daesh, Afghanistan is a bridge for it to cross-over to the rest of the region.

Q: What is the way to tackle this regionally?

A: Afghanistan together with countries in the region and partners in the international community have to sit down and discuss this problem and sincerely and think why we have not been able to deal with this effectively. We, including China, have to look at this as a common problem. The first step in 2017 should be to first deal with it at the regional level. Then we can discuss this issue at the global level. Afghanistan has always insisted that we have to go to the breeding grounds of terrorism, where their support network exists, where terrorism is used as an instrument "of foreign policy. Those are the real roots that we have to dry. There is no doubt about cross border terrorism from Pakistan. Terrorists have safe havens there. The existence of the Taliban leadership there and of course the Pakistani government's offer to bring the Taliban to the negotiation table testifies to this fact.

Q: The Afghanistan leadership has been trying to get Pakistan on board in fight against terror.

A: We hope this New Year will begin with positive changes. The success of the peace process is very dependent on the Pakistan's Army. Pakistan's new Army chief has phoned the Afghanistan leadership and expressed his willingness to deal with terrorism as we both have been victims of terrorism. He has been invited to Afghanistan based on his offer of assistance and to open a new chapter when it comes to fighting terrorism in the Region. We hope that he comes to Afghanistan with a new road map. Pakistan must end cross-border terrorism. Taliban resides there and their foot soldiers are from there too.

Q: What is the difference between '"good" and "bad" Taliban as categorized by the US and the 'irreconcilable' and 'reconcilable' Taliban as categorized by the Afghan leadership?

A: There is considerable difference.  The ideologically motivated Taliban is irreconcilable because they have become terrorists because of ideology based on certain doctrines. These are less in number. They are the core element.

The reconcilable ones are those who have been forced into terrorism by terrorist groups or are fighting for money. The core elements have to be de-radicalized by making them sit with the clerics who can teach them real Islam.

Bad and good are used by states which slot them for their own purpose. For instance, in South and North Waziristan­ Taliban in the South is being fought while those in the North were not. There is no good or bad Taliban as there is no good terrorist. We make a mistake when some choose one terrorist for use against another and name them good and bad. We have to seriously address the fact that some countries use terrorism as a tool against one another. We have to find the right definition of a terrorist or a terrorist group. I don't think we have agreed on the definition that is why some call some terrorists freedom fighters. This has to be addressed at the at the core level.

Q: What can India and Afghanistan do together in 2017 to combat terrorism?

A:  We both have seen the use of terrorism as a state policy by others. Emerging linkages between terrorist groups is worrisome for Afghanistan and should be for India too. The year 2017 should be a year of being proactive and not reactive when it comes to effort and engagement to stop the use and spread of terrorism. India and Afghanistan want to know which country is a genuine partner in the fight against terrorism. But the same time we have to be vigilant not to allow the repetition of war and conflict. We must not allow actors in the region to outsource their conflicts to terrorists just to compete or fight the other or to facilitate what we might call Cold War II.

Q: How do you see the bilateral relationship reaching a higher level in 2017?

A: India has been very supportive and very generous in its assistance in various fields of reconstruction of Afghanistan. We now want expansion of assistance on the basis of our changing priorities. We have requested the Indian government for military equipment. in 2017 we should create a Regional consensus on terrorism, economic initiatives and connectivity. 2017 should see the implementation of strategic, economic and political initiatives of 2016 like the Chabahar Port and the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project. I hope there will be an early agreement on the air corridor between India and Afghanistan and rail networks. The people of Afghanistan have great affection for India. In a poll 64% Afghans named India as their most favorite country.

Q: How do you see the relationship between US and Afghanistan under President Donald Trump?

A: We hope that the new U.S. administration under Trump will review the situation critically and work with Afghanistan and others in the Region and adopt an approach that will have the support of everyone towards a common goal.

Q: What about India do you like most?

A:  Its democracy.



Saksena, Rashmi. “India Has Been Very Supportive and Generous: Afghan Envoy.” India Review & Analysis 1 (2017): 24-25

Originally published on DECEMBER 04, 2016,  The Hindu

Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani delivered one of his most scathing speeches about Pakistan’s role in abetting terror in the region at the Heart of Asia conference in Amritsar on Sunday, alleging that without Pakistani state support, the Taliban “wouldn’t survive beyond a month”. In an exclusive interview with Suhasini Haidar, he spoke of his frustration with Pakistan, friendship with India and hopes for the region.

Your speech at the Heart of Asia included some strong comments for Pakistan, directly telling Pakistan to use money it had offered for Afghanistan’s development better by fighting terrorism with it in its own countries. What led you to pinpoint Pakistan at this international conference?

I engaged Pakistan, I went there and not only visited with the civilian leadership but with the military leadership. I even went to their GHQ (Military headquarters), because each country has their own distinct place for institutions. My message was that there was a window. It could be broadened to a door or a corridor, or it could shut. We did everything to ensure peace with Pakistan. 2015 and 2016 have been extremely difficult years and the violence that has been inflicted on our people needs to be registered. To be quiet when people are dying is not acceptable. I am an elected political leader, I need to reflect my people’s sentiment. Because the question of terrorism is not just a threat to us but to Pakistan and the Asian region, and hence the need for a public statement.


Has the window of opportunity then closed?

They need to open it. We opened the window, now it’s closed, so it’s their turn to open it.

Both India and Afghanistan expressed their anger over this continued terrorism at the conference, which seemed to overshadow the conference. What are your hopes from the process now?

My speech was in four ‘acts’. The first was our celebration of our relationship with India. The second, a celebration of the new consensus on Afghanistan from the global community. The third act was the prospect of Asian economic integration. And the fourth was about what we will be deprived of if we don’t do it. Terrorism is depriving us of this and we need enduring solutions at the Heart of Asia. It is becoming a meaningful process. Our goal would be to link China on one hand to Iran on the other, and also to India. South Asia is the least integrated area and has immense potential.

The worry here would be that it would also be one step from connecting to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor as well, given the rail line from Yiwu to Mazar now.

One corridor is not against another. The logic of price will prevail. Afghanistan is so much easier to go through. Northern Afghanistan is flat. Eventually railway connectivity is to everyone’s benefit, and we shouldn’t see it as a zero sum game.

To come back to concerns over terror, At the SAARC conference, India and Afghanistan came together to boycott Pakistan so they couldn’t host it. Is this policy of isolating Pakistan working?

We don’t intend to isolate Pakistan, but when we are under attack, we need to remind that it will not be tolerated. Engagement is essential, but only engagement that is meaningful. Last year, I went to the Heart of Asia in Islamabad and I was repeatedly assured of a changed policy. Instead we got the worst year of conflict in the last 15 years. An isolated Pakistan is not in the region’s interests, but Pakistan’s leadership must take action beyond its verbal assurances.

In May 2015, in an interview to The Hindu you had said that if Pakistan continues to block transit trade with India, Afghanistan will block its access to Central Asia…is that still a threat?

We actually went through with it. Trade between Afghanistan and Pakistan has been much reduced. Economically Afghanistan has become part of Central Asia. The opening to the port in Turkmenistan fundamentally changes our dependence on the route through Pakistan. It’s five times cheaper and reliable. This image or idea that we are dependent on the port of Karachi must be removed. Afghanistan is at the Heart of Asia, and a heart has many valves. We are de-blocking those valves at present.

The big change in India-Afghanistan ties in the past year has come from India’s decision to provide military helicopters. To quote Mr. Modi on the hesitations of history with the US, has India overcome hesitations with Afghanistan now?

India is converging with Afghanistan. There is nothing secret. It is a transparent state to state relationship. We are driven by common goals and opportunities.

Yet they weren’t always as good when you began your tenure…

They were, but some commentators only saw a zero sum game. Afghanistan wants to become a centre of cooperation. PM Modi and I have had a meeting of minds from the moment we met, and that has resulted in this convergence.

India and Afghanistan have announced a new air cargo agreement now. How will that change the situation, given that we already have many flights between us?

We are essentially reviving the old caravan route….in the sky, when we look for high value, low volume trade. Instead of seeing our trade over land being blocked, this corridor gives us predictability on goods like medicines. India produces cheaper medicines than anywhere. Having an organized process will do wonders for our trade. Afghanistan has a name brand in India. From Babur who brought fruit to India to Tagore’s Kabuliwala, there runs a straight line.

How viable is the other alternate to the Pakistan land route, Iran’s Chabahar port? Gwadar is already seeing Chinese goods go through from the CPEC, Iran is completing its INSTC to Central Asia, is there room for more than bilateral trade through Chabahar port now?

What we need to look at is not just Chabahar alone. Iran has 11 neighbours that it is connected to, neighbours like Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan. The issue is Indian trade to Central Asia through Afghanistan, and that makes a lot of sense.

To come to the security situation in Afghanistan, you spoke with U.S. President Elect Trump recently, how do you assess the U.S.’s role in Afghanistan under him? Will it shrink?

President Obama made a historic decision to keep a medium term outlook of 4-years on security for Afghanistan, and President Trump will most likely keep that. 2015 was our year of survival, 2016 was the year of our organized defence, 2017 and on will be years of success and consolidation. Look, in 2014 there were 140,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, now there are 10,000 and mostly in supporting roles. Afghan security forces have really come a long way. And now we have an airforce.

What is the role for India then? Has the problem of spare parts, delivery, now been resolved, and will there be a trilateral arrangement with Russia?

We welcomed the helicopters India sent. Our fleet of helicopters were mostly Russian, and India’s help has been invaluable in helping us maintain them. We will now purchase U.S. equipment. India’s delivery has been a life saver.

Where are talks with the Taliban now?

We signed a peace agreement with the Hizb-e-Islami this year, so its important to know that an intra-Afghanistan dialogue can work. We can only hope the Taliban will follow the same process. Taliban has just made a pronouncement that it won't attack infrastructure here, that’s because they realize it is very unpopular to do so. The Taliban used to say, the west had watches, but they had the time, and so would win. The Afghan public is turning against such destructiveness. Also there is the emergence of other actors like Daesh/IS who could upstage them. So we hope they will realize the need to come to the table.

You sound confident, but Taliban appears to control large areas now. We saw a public hanging this week of an engineer. How much does the government really control?

Around 66-68 per cent is controlled by our forces, about 10 per cent with the Taliban and the rest is contested. There has been a stalemate, but that is now turning in favour of the government. The territory may not have changed, but we are now maintaining our positions instead of the 140,000 foreign troops. The unity of the Afghan Army has been significant in this.

So will talks with the Taliban now be intra-Afghan, is Pakistan out of the process, given that we saw them host talks in the past ?

Taliban are a red herring in discussions with Pakistan. Because they need to own up to the threat of terror.

Pakistan often says as an explanation, that they have housed millions of Afghan refugees, they can’t tell which are Taliban….

This excuse is old. One of our corps commanders from Helmand went to Quetta and offered to show the commander there the very houses where Taliban leadership lives. There was silence in reply. The Afghan refugees believe their future is in Afghanistan….if they want to send them back we will take them, even if we have only one loaf of bread to share. I don’t need foreign aid, I need peace to build our country. The world has been reconvinced that Afghanistan is an investment that will yield.