Embassy of Afghanistan - News

Originally published on February 4, 2016,  The Hindu

India in the loop on Taliban talks: Abdullah

 
 
Afghanistan Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah gestures during an interview with “The Hindu” in New Delhi on Thursday. Photo: R.V. Moorthy
Abdullah doesn’t rule out possibility of link between Pathankot and attack on Indian mission.

India has been kept in the loop on “each and every development” in the Taliban reconciliation process, Afghanistan chief executive Abdullah Abdullah said in New Delhi on Thursday, ahead of the next round of talks in Islamabad on February 6, 2016.

In his first interview on the Pathankot attacks that occurred at the same time as the attack on the Indian mission in Mazar-e-Sharif in early January, Dr. Abdullah said he could not rule out both attacks being launched by the Jaish-e-Mohammad, but said it was “too early to make a judgement” on any link between them or to the transfer of Mi-35 helicopters by India to Afghanistan just a week prior to the attacks.

Dr. Abdullah said that the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Kabul on Christmas had “re-energised” the strategic partnership agreement (SPA) between India and Afghanistan, and the SPA commission headed by the Foreign Ministers, that hasn’t met since 2012, would meet soon to take ties forward.

In particular he said the transfer of four Mi-35 helicopters to Afghanistan had “boosted the morale and combat operations”. Significantly, Dr. Abdullah wouldn’t rule out the possibility of links between the Pathankot attack on January 2, 2016, and the assault on the Indian mission in Mazar-e-Sharif on January 3, 2016 as well as whether Pakistan-based group Jaish-e-Mohammad had carried them out in retaliation for the Indian helicopters being sent to Afghanistan. The helicopters marked the first such lethal military hardware transfer by India, and they have already been put into combat fighting terrorist groups in Helmand Province, officials said.

When asked about the possibility of any link in the two attacks, given the evidence, Dr. Abdullah said he couldn’t give a comment, but wasn’t ruling it out. “Yes, all of this evidence is available, but I cannot make that judgement, because there are two levels to this. (At one level) these terrorist groups and their aims and goals are known. But at the other, details of the attacks and any linkages must be discussed by the countries directly not in the media.”

On the subject of the Taliban talks, Dr. Abdullah said that would be “no pre-conditions for talks with the Taliban” as and when they would be resumed, holding that the only “red-lines” announced by former President Hamid Karzai, which insisted on the Taliban giving up violence and accepting the constitution were meant to be outcomes of the talks, and not pre-conditions.

“If the outcome anyway violates our constitution that is an absolute redline. If the groups want to continue links with terrorists but join the political mainstream the same time, that is an absolute red line too. Or if they want deny the rights for men and women, then that wont be allowed. But there will be no pre-conditions for talks with the Taliban,” Dr. Abdullah told The Hindu.

On the widely held perception that India has opposed talks with the Taliban, and that it was blind-sided by President Ashraf Ghani’s announcement of an intelligence partnership with the ISI, Dr. Abdullah said this was a misconception of the media.

“That’s how you see it from the outside. Within, India is kept in the loop throughout, because India has a stake in the stabilisation of the country and India has helped with stabilising Afghanistan,” he told The Hindu.

During his visit to Delhi, where Dr. Abdullah met Mr. Modi, NSA Ajit Doval and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, he discussed the upcoming meeting of the “Quadrilateral Cooperation Group” (QCG), made up of U.S., China, Pakistan and Afghanistan that are facilitating the talks with the Taliban. The meeting on Saturday is expected to lead to a resumption of the direct talks with Taliban leaders that were called off when it emerged that former leader Mullah Omar had been dead for several months, if not more.

In the interview to The Hindu, Dr. Abdullah accepted that the last round of talks with the Taliban, held in July 2015, that were abruptly called off after it emerged that Taliban chief Mullah Omar had been dead for several months were a sham, but that it was necessary to keep engaging Pakistan. “Absolutely it was (a sham)”, Dr. Abdullah said adding “but we have a problem at hand, and it doesn’t matter if we are disappointed or hopeful, we have to make the right efforts (towards reconciliation with the Taliban”.

Earlier, in a media interaction Dr. Abdullah had explained that there had been no attempt to keep India out of the QCG talks, but the countries in the Quadrilateral either “had influence over the Taliban, or influence over the situation in Afghanistan.”

While the U.S. has stayed a complete pullout from Afghanistan until the security situation improves, Pakistan for its “heavy influence over the Taliban”, and China “for its influence over Pakistan” were integral to the process, Dr. Abdullah said.

 

Originally published on November 20, 2015,   NDTV

India to Deliver Helicopter Gunships to Afghanistan: Sources

 
India to Deliver Helicopter Gunships to Afghanistan: Sources
 
 
Indian Air Force attack helicopter gunships -- delivered to Kabul -- will soon be flying in the skies of Afghanistan targeting the Taliban.

Four Russian-made Mi-25 attack helicopters, with the Indian Air Force, will be delivered within the next two months, sources tell NDTV.

After meetings Indian officials in Delhi, Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai told NDTV a deal with India is crucial, since 2015 by far, has been the most "violent year".

"We have had the most casualties. We see daily violence in about 20 provinces, so, it is important to have that covered," he said.

 
This is a marked shift in policy followed from the UPA government's tenure -- of not providing Kabul any lethal weapons or equipment. India has been training around 1,000 Afghan army and other security officers and men a year.

In April, New Delhi supplied military transport vehicles and three small unarmed Cheetal helicopters.

Referring to the coalition drawdown and the vacuum created with the need for helicopter gunships, the Afghan minister said, ""Two and a half years ago, we had about 150,000 coalition forces. To support them, we had over 200,000 military contractors."

But the major counter-terrorist operations, supported by the world's leading militaries, came to rest on Afghan shoulders since the beginning of 2015.

"We now have to develop our own capabilities. This is why we are reaching out to our friends and allies," the minister said.

President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has been under pressure for his policy of engaging more with Islamabad rather than Delhi, on security issues, sources told NDTV. With Taliban attacks at an all-time high, he is seen as needing to mend fences with New Delhi.

In an interview to NDTV in April, President Ghani had acknowledged, "The past is past. We are engaged in a comprehensive understanding of our mutual interests and we will act and build on those mutual interests".

Asked if more lethal weaponry has been sought, Minister Hekmat Karzai said, "We have been assured that India is going to look at our requests, and proceed accordingly."

But, as of now, sources say -- apart from the attack helicopters -- those requests will not necessarily lead to a further supply of military equipment that can be used in the battle against the Taliban.

 

Originally published on October 2015,  INDIA EMPIRE

 

In an interview on bilateral trade and economic relations, tourism and business opportunities and Indian community in Afghanistan, Ambassador of Afghanistan to India, Mr Shaida Mohammad Abdali talks to India Empire’s Assistant Editor Misha Singh. Mr Abdali is also concurrently accredited to Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives. In his earlier assignments, he provided the President with policy and oversight advice on national security issues. He administered the National Security Council meetings and chaired the Deputies Committee Meetings of the National Security Council, which facilitated strategic coordination and communication among Afghan and international stakeholders to help address Afghanistan’s security and development needs. Internationally he has been honoured with the CCI Technology Education Excellence Award in 2014 for initiating and promoting education ties between India and Afghanistan; the Honorary Texan Award in the United States of America; the World Green Diplomacy Award in New Delhi in 2013; a gold medal for fostering diplomatic relations between Afghanistan and India by Amity University; and a Life Time Achievement Award by the Lions International Club; and recently Outstanding Achievements Award As the Ambassador of Afghanistan by National Defense University, thereon his image is permanently displayed at the International Hall of Fame

Please let us know about Afghanistan’s bilateral trade and economic relations with India…

Well in the outset let me brief you about the overall outline of the strategic partnership with India which concludes various areas of co-operation. Particularly the economic relationship is very crucial and this is not new, Afghanistan has been a traditional economically integrated country throughout the history. We are trying to expand this relationship as much as possible. We have been working on very strategic economic projects with India which will not only contribute to the economies of India and Afghanistan but the economies of the entire region.

Of course the transit trade agreements that are going to happen in the near future are on the top of the agenda for both countries. This would further promote our economic ties. Currently, we do not have many routes for business. But certainly there are businesses going both ways, large number of business from India go to Afghan and lots of Afghan businesses come to India. There are around 100 Indian companies in Afghanistan, although most of them are in Joint Ventures with Afghan companies in sectors such as services and construction. So, we are very optimistic that Afghan -India relationship will go high and high with the passage of time because of the will in the two countries to be connected socially, culturally, politically and economically. We are making efforts to include India in APTTA (Afghanistan Pakistan Transit and Trade Agreement), hopefully when that happens it will largely help in terms of connectivity between our countries and the businesses will flourish.

Have there been any developments in the bilateral relations of two countries after President Ashraf Ghani’s visit to India?

Definitely. Regardless of the Government or the leadership Afghanistan’s relationship with India is set strong. It only unfolds in an extensive way with the passage of time. Both countries have continuity in relationship with new count rather trying to promote it further. When the President was here he concentrated more on economic aspect of the relationship because the economy matters in terms of our joint goal that we are pursuing for people’s prosperity, development and stability. All of this depends on wellbeing of the people; if they prosper that will definitely have an effect on all the other aspects as well. So, the President’s visit was a very successful one, he discussed issue that I have earlier referred to like connectivity, business and APTTA. The visit was also because the two countries have a strong desire to further expand the relationship. I had proposed to President that we should open some other representative offices to further promote trade which included Consulate General in Hyderabad and an honorary consul’s office in Kolkata. I am glad that he sent a team to assess the feasibility in the context and the idea will soon be realized. I am also thinking of appointing a Commercial Attaché in Amritsar which is the connecting point, so that we have our representation there. This is because if in case any issue related economic or commercial activities arises in Amritsar, he/she would be on the spot to resolve and address the issue. Also, to promote visits of the businessmen from India, Afghanistan is considering extending Multiple Entry Visa for Indian businessmen on long term basis. So, we are constantly working on expansion of our ties with India.

What are the tourism opportunities in Afghanistan that you can let our readers know about?

Afghanistan used to have one of the highest revenues long time back in the 60’s and 70’s from the tourism sector. It is a beautiful country but we have to work together towards the promotion of the tourism industry in the two countries. We need to see how Afghanistan and India can work together on the tourism sector so that people of our country visit Indian and vice versa and also attract tourists from rest of the world. There are so many shared cultural and historical sites that we have in our two countries and we have a co-relationship with one another. So, because of the shared history and values we have to work together for mutual benefits in the promotion of tourism sector of our two countries. So, tourism sector is one of the focused areas of Afghanistan but we hope that there would be conducive and secured environment in order to attract tourists from all over the world.

How do you view the contribution of the Indian community in Afghanistan?

The Indians residing there are Afghans and we have basically no division when it comes to our shared goals and common values. We are blessed with a very diverse community in Afghanistan and Afghanistan without its Indian community or Afghan Hindus will be incomplete. I am always honoured to receive the Afghan Hindu community in Delhi when they are residing here and they come and celebrate with me. We celebrate all the National Days or occasions together here. So, the contribution of Indian community is as crucial as any other community in Afghanistan. They are Afghans, they contribute to the economy of Afghanistan and we hope that they will continue to do so.

Please outline for us the presence of Afghanistan’s companies in India, and Indian companies in Afghanistan…

As I mentioned earlier there are around 100 Indian companies in Afghanistan, they have tie-ups with Afghan businesses there. We are making constant effort to promote the joint business ties. We have begun promoting women business relationship in the last few months. When our first lady was here and the Afghan businessmen were here, we had a big event with FLO. We are also going to sign a MoU in the near future with women business community here and women business community of Afghanistan. So, we are not only promoting the businesses led by men but also the businesses led by women. There is also an exhibition that was organised by us where we invited the businesses from Afghanistan to showcase their products in India. The exhibition was organised under the SAARC umbrella. So, the effort to promote the presence of Afghan companies in India and also the ones who wish to open their office in India are taking place. There are a lot of companies that have contacted us for opening their offices in India, so we are also thinking of building an Afghan complex, where the products will be made available because there are so many Afghan’s living in India. There is large group of Afghan traders here in India basically dealing in dry fruits and fresh fruits sector and this is the business we have been having traditionally with India. But of course we need to promote it and promote other Afghan businesses in India in a more fashioned manner. We need to focus on the value addition services like the packaging and processing.

Please talk us through capacity building and training programmes in Defence and Security…

Well, that is an ongoing process. Army and police officers are being trained on a regular basis. This is under the Strategic Partnership Agreement that we signed in 2011 and it will go on. This is an ongoing co-operation in various areas which are envisaged in the agreement that we have, so all the areas of co-operation that exist in our framework will go on also without the agreement.

What kind of Line of Credit has been offered to Afghanistan by the Indian Government?

There is a programme; it is being conducted from our businesses there in various sectors both on large and small scale. But, this needs a further push in order to make it more visible. This is presently in a preliminary stage, we definitely want this to be lot bigger and overstitched in order to bring more and more businesses under the Line of Credit Programme as well.

Please tell us about the investment opportunities in Afghanistan for Indian exporters.

Afghanistan announced the New Investment Incentive Policy for attracting investment on long term basis in various sectors. These sectors include industry, construction, export promotion, agriculture and mining, wherein the investor would be provided 5 years rent free location, concessional electricity and import of machinery without tax. There are also a lot investment opportunities in sectors like healthcare, minerals, infrastructure, energy and minerals, transportation or logistics, banking, textiles and renewable energy.

What role is Chabahar Port in Iran likely to play in India-Afghan trade relations?

Chabahar Port in Iran is likely to significantly boost the volume of trade between India and Afghanistan by providing shorter route for transporting goods between the two countries besides providing direct access to Central Asia.

 

 

 

Speech by Ambassador Shaida Mohammad Abdali, Ambassador of Afghanistan to India, for the NDU International Hall of Fame Ceremony (September 21, 2015)

Originally published on April 30, 2015,  The Hindu

‘Our people are killed to show a spectacle’

 
 
 
Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani during an
interview with The Hindu at the Rashtrapati
Bhavan on Wednesday. Photo: R.V. MoorthyGhani says terror targets all of Afghanistan’s neighbours from India to Russia.

In a wide-ranging interview, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani discusses issues as varied as trade and terror with Suhasini Haidar. 

After your meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, there were no agreements signed, no announcements on strategic cooperation… how did the meetings go?

The meetings went extremely well, there are a series of agreements that will be signed within the next three months. So the framework is in place, and we are proceeding.

One of the subjects both you and PM Modi mentioned was the possibility of India being included in, or be a beneficiary of the Afghanistan Pakistan Transit and Trade Agreement (APTTA). How is that realistic, given that Pakistan has opposed the trade from Afghanistan to India directly, i.e. to Attari since the agreement was signed in 2011?

Regional cooperation requires a legal free-flow of goods and people. We are not asking Pakistan for any exceptional treatment. We are asking Pakistan for “national treatment”. Pakistani trucks come all the way to Attari. Why should Afghan trucks stop at Wagah? It’s a major cost for that distance, to load, unload and re-load. It is an incredible imposition on the cost of business. Sovereign states deal with sovereign equality. If we are not given equal transit access, then we will not provide equal transit access to Central Asia.

Is that something you have taken up with the Pakistani leadership?

Yes. We are clear. In our talks with the Commerce Minister of Pakistan (Khurram Dastgir) we have made it clear that it needs to be reciprocal. Relations between countries, especially when it comes to business, if there were significant reasons, if we had not accorded national treatment to Pakistani trucks, then we could have understood.

The national treatment clause is in the APTTA. So what you are saying is that if Pakistan continues to deny Afghan trucks access to bring their wares all the way to India, Afghanistan will cut off their trucks access directly to the countries in Central Asia?

We don’t want to reach that level, but equality in all principles is a must. That is what I am saying.

Is there a timeline on these? Because similarly, the motor vehicles agreement will need access through Pakistan…

Not on the APTTA, but yes, we (India and Afghanistan) will sign the motor vehicles agreement within three months.

In your conversation with Mr. Modi did you also discuss what your predecessor, President Karzai, used to call his “wishlist”: military equipment and hardware that Afghanistan needs?

No. Our focus is multi-dimensional. At this moment, we are doing okay on this regard (military hardware). That list you referred to had not been acted upon before. Now, three helicopters have been provided, and we have expressed our thanks and appreciation to India for those.

Were you disappointed that India had not acted upon the list?

I am never disappointed (Laughs).

Let’s turn to Afghanistan’s big security challenges. During your visit here you have spoken often about Da’esh or IS (Islamic State). The sense is that you no longer see the Taliban, the TTP , the Lashkar e Taiba as much of a threat as Afghanistan did before….

No, that’s not accurate. The expression I have used is ecology of terror. The questions I have been asked are about Da’esh, and I answered them. But the other groupings you refer to are equally significant. They all form part of one ecology, which can be symbiotic, or competitive. There’s a Darwinian struggle amongst terror groups for hegemony. Da’esh has broken out of the pack because Al-Qaeda and the rest rendered allegiance to Mullah Omar. Da’esh doesn’t, so it is a very distinct ideological gauntlet that has been thrown. There are four drivers of this instability. The first is international groups like IS and Al Qaeda, the second are criminal groups, politico-military movements, and the irresponsible armed groups.

During the height of international force presence, their focus was on the Taliban, because the other terror groups were in Pakistan, across the Durand lines, where drone attacks were used. More than 120,000 international troops pulled out under a schedule that I had the honour of drawing up. Everyone was banking on our collapse after they withdrew. We are not collapsing. We do have a difficult security environment. But the drivers have changed. The international terror networks target every one of our neighbours from India to Russia. There is no space for dealing with them, as their quarrels are not with us. They want to overthrow the Uzbek regime, or fight the Chinese or the Russian government. The previous framework was to deal with counter-insurgency. But then the prize was the state. Now the prize is not the state, it is destruction. Our territory is being made the battleground. Our people are being killed brutally to show a spectacle. We all need to mobilise as a region, we need to mobilize as one country, and the Taliban will have to make a choice if they want to work with these groups, or do they want a political process? Taliban issues should be put on the table so they can be solved politically.

I do want to come back to the talks with the Taliban, but to go back to the picture you drew, none of what you said relates to State-sponsored terror. Very specifically, to groups that belong to Pakistan and have been backed by the state. This was something the government of Afghanistan told us about repeatedly.

Well, the issue is we are asking for a two-fold peace. One is a Pakistan-Afghanistan peace. The other is between the government of Afghanistan and other groups in our country that have differences. In the current environment, primacy of peace between the States is a must, because the Pakistani state is being challenged by groups there. Their National Action Plan, the Peshawar massacre should be a warning to everybody that we are all in the same boat. You cannot have good terrorists and bad terrorists.

Many wonder when they hear you speak of Da’esh as the primary threat, that that is a way to buy peace with Pakistan, of not mentioning groups backed by Pakistan…

No, that’s not true. As a result of the operations in North and South Waziristan, this year, there is war in Pakistan. It isn’t just a spring offensive in Afghanistan, there is a spring offensive in Pakistan. This threat has been discussed in great detail with our Pakistani counterparts, and hence there is a realisation that there is a common threat attacking our states.

The media is funny that way. They ask you one question, and then they criticise you for not answering another question. Nobody asked me about the other groups. Did I ever say there isn’t a threat from them?

Well specifically in India, we worry about the Lashkar-e-Taiba that carried out attacks in India as well as in Afghanistan… is that still a threat?

Of course, there is a threat. They are part of the ecology. And when I say that all our neighbours are threatened by these groups, that should be sufficient.

To come to talks with the Taliban, we heard from your office that the talks could start in March, that there was a deadline set by you. Tell us where that process is?

We are preparing. Peace is our priority. I have always said that talks will begin when they begin. You cannot dictate a time schedule. We need sustainability. In an article in 2007, I have reviewed more than 100 peace agreements, and I found that 50% of peace agreements break down within 5 years because they are not properly prepared. We are not after an event, but a fundamental change.

What else has changed? Have you shifted from the previous red-lines that giving up violence is a pre-condition to talks, and the process must be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned. You haven’t spoken of pre-conditions, and now Pakistan and China seem to have a role in the process.

The second one is absolutely the case. The process is Afghan-owned and Afghan-led. I, as the leader of the country, am leading it. I designed the process.

No one else is leading it. The primacy is of a state agreement, so any attempt to destabilise Afghanistan will not be allowed. We are not a battlefield and we will not allow anyone to use our territory against any of our neighbour, but we will not allow our neighbours to use our territory this way either. This is a fundamental change and a hard line. We may consult others on the parameters, but I will not be pushed into any process, any deadlines. Because, all deadlines are artificial.

Finally, you made a statement resembling former PM Manmohan Singh’s statement on breakfast in Delhi, lunch in Peshawar, dinner in Kabul. Is that at all likely, given the current levels of mistrust? Did you discuss it with PM Modi?

Yes. And of course, South Asia is the least economically integrated region. That is an insult to our intelligence and our imagination and our past. We must focus on our biggest enemy, poverty. There is no single-state solution to it, and that is a noble goal. Afghanistan will take decades to develop on its own. And that is why we need South Asian cooperation. We see ourselves as a platform for this development.

Do you also see yourselves as a mediating platform between India and Pakistan?

(Laughs) That’s too ambitious!

President Ghani, thank you for speaking to The Hindu. Thank you.

Contacts

Embassy of I.R. of Afghanistan
New Delhi

5/50F, Shantipath
Chanakyapuri
New Delhi-110021
Phone: +91-11-2410 0412
Fax: +91-11-2687 5439
 delhimfa.af

Consulate General of I.R. of Afghanistan
Mumbai

115, Walkeshwar Rd, Walkeshwar,
Malabar Hill, Mumbai,
Maharashtra 400006
Phone: +91-22-2363 3777
Fax: +91-22 2363 5437