Remarks By

 

Ambassador of Afghanistan to India

H.E. Shaida M. Abdali

At

International Conference on Regional Development, Sustainability and Socio-Economic Development in Jammu & Kashmir

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 18, 2013

Kashmir University, Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir, India

 

 

Thank you for the kind, generous introduction.

Minister Muhammad Akbar Lone,

Vice Chancellor Talat Ahmad,

Vice Chancellor S. K. Sopory,

Distinguished Scholars,

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Please allow me to extend the warm greetings of the Afghan people and government to the people and government of Jammu & Kashmir. I am quite delighted to be here on my very first visit, as Ambassador of Afghanistan to India, and look forward to many future opportunities like today to return to this beautiful, picturesque Indian State. Indeed, on hearing the word “Kashmir,” one is rightfully reminded of what Emperor Jahangir once said about this awesome land: “If there is paradise on Earth, it is here, it is here, it is here.”

I would like to thank Kashmir University and its related academic departments for organizing this important international conference, and for honoring me to be a guest and participant. The range of topics of development for discussion in the conference is quite comprehensive in detail and substance. I look forward to learning from presentations of research on the various aspects of sustainable development of Jammu & Kashmir today and tomorrow.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As I was going through the book of abstracts on issues of development relating to the State of Jammu & Kashmir, I was struck by the many commonalities Afghanistan shares with the State. It is true that each region of the world and the countries therein have their distinct contexts, as far as how and whether they have developed.

At the same time, however, the development challenges they confront are strikingly similar.  And that is why the classification of countries along the continuum of least developed, developing, and developed makes sense, in accordance with which policies, reforms, and resource allocations are to be made. It also helps us ask analytical questions about causes of development and lack thereof in any given context, be it at a national or sub-national level, while looking for relevant lessons to be learned.

Back in the year 2000, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) was internationally recognized as a vehicle to advance the sustainable development agenda. This is in part based on the experience of those developed countries, which have been able to address issues of extreme poverty, universal primary education, gender equality, health-care, environmental security, and so on. In this context, it seems to me that MDGs presupposes the existence of an enabling environment, especially in terms of protective security, where the eight plus goals might be implemented overtime. But that is not the case with every country or regions in a country.

 

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In Afghanistan, a lack of security has prevented all forms of development from happening for too long. To begin with, our country was one of the least developed countries of the world even before the advent of destructive conflicts of the past three decades imposed on our people. That is why we strongly believe that had Afghanistan not been exploited as a proxy battlefield of the Cold War (1980s) and its aftermath (1990s), development of our country could have gradually taken off.

Through sustainable investment in education, we could have slowly built a productive labor force, and harnessed it to exploit our natural resources. The revenues generated from export of our natural resources could have been spent to build our country’s infrastructure, which in turn would have contributed to a sustainable economic growth in Afghanistan. These were the objectives of our former governments before the Communist Revolution of 1979, which unfortunately ushered in over two decades of destructive insecurity in Afghanistan. This tragedy foreclosed any hope of sustainable development in the country.

 

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The fall of Taliban in 2001 ushered in a new era of hope for reconstruction and sustainable development of Afghanistan. At numerous international conferences, we presented to the international community a number of long-term blueprints for development of our country. Based on many lessons learned over the course of almost a decade, in 2010, we presented to the international community the Afghanistan National Development Strategy. This Strategy takes into consideration the MDGs, among other sustainable development benchmarks. And it addresses the specific needs of Afghanistan within a sequenced framework for implementation, with long-term international financial and technical support.

 

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On our achievements in the areas of social and economic development, I am glad to report that access to education and health care has increased manifold across Afghanistan. More than 8 million children (40 % girls) have gone back to school, and some 80% of our people have access to some kind of basic health care, which was nonexistent under the Taliban.

At the same time, each year, thousands of students go on to pursue higher education at public and private universities across Afghanistan. And many others have gone to India and other countries for higher education. The net impact of these achievements has contributed to a high rate of economic growth year after year, currently estimated at 8 percent.

 

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The key challenge on our path to sustainable development remains insecurity with external roots. This is a predicament that we share with Jammu & Kashmir, whose process of development has also been harmed by external security threats. In the past twelve years, many government and private sector employees and workers working on our reconstruction and development projects have been targeted by terrorist attacks. Such attacks have discouraged domestic and private investment in Afghanistan, which is a key driver of economic growth.

Of course, our economy is primarily undermined by such attacks, but, as we know from the past, when Afghanistan is destabilized, it will entail spillover consequences for the rest of the region. We have brought this fact to the attention of our neighbors time and again, stating that the future of our region lies in economic cooperation geared towards integration. Achieving this rests on open borders and increased people to people contacts in all spheres of life. Indeed, this is the demand and the call of our globalizing era.

 

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

My country is going through a transition period where Afghans increasingly take over the task of securing and developing our country. In the Tokyo Conference last July, the international community and our government committed to a long-term partnership based on mutual accountability.

In the next five years, some 16 billion dollars will be provided in international aid to ensure economic stability in Afghanistan beyond 2014 and into a decade of transformation focused on sustainable development of the country. This effort is bolstered by major bilateral contributions from the friendly government and people of India, whose most effective assistance has helped build critical institutional capacity and infrastructure in Afghanistan.

We remain indebted to India for sharing part of its own bread with Afghanistan, and look forward to learning from the country’s reservoir of development experience and expertise, including from those of Indian States, like Jammu & Kashmir, with the kind of development challenges we share in Afghanistan.

I wish you all a very successful conference with many productive sessions today and tomorrow.

 

 

Thank you.

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