The Centre for Afghanistan Studies, Academy of International Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia held a talk on “Afghanistan: From Transition to Transformation” by Afghanistan’s Ambassador to India, Mr Shaida Mohammad Abdali at Tagore Conference Room, Dayar-e-Mir Taqi Mir, JMI on Thursday, 12 March, 2015.
The Ambassador started by paying tribute to Rabindranath Tagore whose photograph beatifies the wall of the conference room named after him, who, according to the ambassador, had planted the seed of a deepening relationship between Afghanistan and India by writing a short story. He then expressed happiness over the presence of many young Afghan boys and girls in the university who would be leading the country in near future
While speaking on the topic Mr Abdali said that from a decade of transition Afghanistan had entered “a new phase called transformation” in which it has witnessed some success in terms of political, military, security and economic transition. Although this progress is not very tangible, that cannot be denied at the same time. He observed that despite good progress made in areas of security, political and economic stability Afghanistan continues to expect and seek help from the international community.
Mr Abdali outlined the areas where Afghanistan has entered a new phase which he called the ‘transformation decade’ and what the country had achieved in the last few years. These among others include political transition in the form of elections which he termed “historic and peaceful” in which millions of Afghans, around 40 percent of them being women, turned out to vote. This transition, he said, “is based on the institution capacity of the country which has taken shape during 13 years”. But it is not out of the woods and therefore to ensure that Afghanistan becomes self-reliant it needs commitment from both the Afghan government and the international community.
The second transition is also a political transition but in the dual form of political means and peace efforts which had not been a success so far. It is an ongoing process, based on certain red lines, which calls for “end of violence” and joining of the mainstream Afghanistan population for a tangible result.
The third is the economic transition which is overshadowed by security issues but “We tackle it as parallel to the political process to ensure that the country makes progress economically”. He said that Afghanistan’s huge resources remain untapped which calls for support of its neighbours. However, due to the issue of terrorism, insecurity continues with external roots and that exploits Afghanistan’s vulnerabilities which impede its progress. Added to it are some new phenomena like the rise of the ISIS which is trying to replace the old security threats and is reaching out to Afghanistan’s borders.
He further said that these were not Afghan-centric rather global security challenges. It is therefore important to look how these are affecting South Asia and Central Asia and how they should be addressed. He cited the example of the brutal killing of schoolchildren in Peshawar. In his very weighed and calculated words, Mr. Abdali said that Afghanistan’s security was also a security challenge for Pakistan which calls for joint measure between the two neighbours.
A former Deputy National Security Advisor to the former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, Mr Abdali said that there were two options to deal with this situation; a win-win or a zero-sum narrative, adding that Afghanistan was at the centre of a region which can facilitate a make or break situation where a make would be win-win. However, a zero-sun solution could be negative and therefore a regional support is required. He saw its possibility with organizations like the SAARC and, or SCO and other regional and international organizations. He said Afghanistan views SAARC as the most vital organisation that can create a positive atmosphere among South Asian and Central Asian countries. Against this backdrop the Ambassador made a special mention of India’s long-historic relations with Afghanistan.
Mr. Abdali also mentioned about the Istanbul Process by which he saw progress coming through CBMs (Confidence Building Measures). He urged to learn from the failed approaches and build constructive partnerships between Afghanistan and its neighbours to avoid repetition of past failures.
So far as withdrawal of the international troops from Afghanistan is concerned, he said that even when the troops are withdrawn, “it does not mean we say good-bye” to one another. If troops are withdrawn it shows the strength we have developed. It is a success story. Moreover, international communities’ commitment to Afghanistan will continue to exist. Post-2014, the US forces in a size of 10000 to 12000 will stay for at least another decade to train, assistant and advise Afghanistan’s national security forces with a similar arrangement for some NATO forces. The perception that troops’ withdrawal will create [security] vacuum is untrue. He, however, warned against any “premature disengagement in Afghanistan”.
Prof. Shri Prakash, Officiating Director of the AIS presided over the proceedings of the talk which among others had Prof. Ajay Darshan Behera, Dr. Mathew Joseph, Dr. K. N. Tennyson, Dr. Angira Sen Sharma, dignitaries from the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and a good number of students from Afghanistan enrolled in different courses in JMI.