In an interview with Diplomacy & Beyond, Ambassador of Afghanistan to India, Shaida Mohammad Abdali, shares his vision on the issues related with furthering of relationship between India and Afghanistan. He also talks about the works undergoing between both nations in the fields of trade, investment, education and infrastructure development. Here are the edited excerpts…
- His Excellency, India and Afghanistan have long shared bilateral relations in the fields of economy, trade and culture. How do you see this deep relationship acting as a constant tie that binds both nations in a close knit?
It’s a very special relationship. The bonding invites lots of attention from both sides. The foundation for developing strategic relations with the rest of the world, post Taliban era, began with India. Post-Taliban, India immediately offered help to build Afghanistan’s infrastructure, roads, schools, computerisation, and training of different institutions. Common interests and consistent high level visits from the two sides have further strengthened the bilateral relations. India has played a significant role in bringing peace to Afghanistan. This has been much appreciated by the countries across the world. No one can shy away from the fact that India has a substantial role to play, along with world powers such as the US, in development of Afghanistan. We are extremely grateful, India has done a lot.
- Salma Dam, or officially known as India-Afghanistan Friendship Dam is landmark construction project by India and Afghanistan. What are your views in terms of benefiting the local people of Herat; supplying more power to the region and to strengthening the existing friendship between the nations?
It is a signatory project that is one of the largest infrastructure development projects in Afghanistan. Its work had begun sometime long back that shows how a project that was inaugurated decades back wasn’t given upon even after many years getting passed. Over $200 million were spent on this project. Not only electricity, locals can also avail irrigation benefits from the Salma Dam. In fact during our Foreign Minister’s visit to India in mid-September
both countries agreed on ‘New Development Partnership’ and in this context, as per the priorities and request of the Government and the people of Afghanistan both sides agreed to take up 116 High Impact Community Development
Projects to be implemented in 31 provinces of Afghanistan including in the areas of education, health, agriculture, irrigation, drinking water, renewable energy, flood control, micro-hydropower, sports infrastructure and administrative
- The bilateral trade between India and Afghanistan is strong and growing in spite of many difficulties.Despites no direct land access, India is the secondlargest destination for Afghan exports. In this regard, what more prospects do you see in Indo- Afghan bilateral trade?
The potential is huge. We are on a high trajectory and aim at much higher trade levels than what are at present. We continue to trade with India, but the route that passes through Pakistan is not very reliable. Therefore, we have been working on alternate routes such as Chabahar port. We are very much focusing on such regional routes so as to increase the bilateral trade. Once it is fully operationalised, the trade volume will rise. At the end of September, Afghanistan-India Business Summit was organized and we have a number of other initiatives in focus, given the current environment.
- Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi’s visit to Afghanistan in December 2015 and Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani’s visit to India in September 2016 are landmarks in the history of Afghanistan-India relation. How do you see these visits are further strengthening the India-Afghanistan relations?
Since being elected as prime minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi has visited Afghanistan twice. It clearly shows how strategically the bilateral relationship is poised. In fact, last time he was in Afghanistan he inaugurated new Afghan Parliament built by India in Kabul. In short, I can say, the future of this alliance is very bright.
- India is a favorite destination for aspiring Afghan students to pursue higher education. What more can
both nations do in order to promote the existing ties in education sector?
Human resource is the most fundamental need of any nation today. Given Afghanistan’s scenario, at present, where it is undergoing reconstruction, good human resource is much needed. India, in context of helping Afghans attain education, has done a praiseworthy work. For any country to develop fast, it primarily needs education. In rough fi gures, around 60,000 Afghan students have graduated from India so far. We are very appreciative of India for this particular assistance. For a country such as Afghanistan that has around sixty percent of its youth under 25 years, India’s help in education sector is immense. His Excellency, in Afghanistan, thousands of Indian people are working in reconstructing the infrastructure in various sectors. On the other hand, India is home to millions of Afghan origin people as well Afghan nationals living in different parts of India.
- How do you see Indian and Afghan diaspora serving as a strong thread in strengthening bilateral and cultural relations between the countries?
Foundation of the relationship between two nations is based on people-to-people contact either via trade or education sector. Further deepening of contact can be achieved through increased movement of students on both sides of the border. Youngsters in both nations can be ambassadors of this alliance worldwide. Not only will this help in development of Afghanistan but help in strengthening of the bilateral relations as well.
- What is your message for the readers of Diplomacy and Beyond?
My message is that all should work towards enlightening people about the long standing relationship between the two nations. The media have a big role to play in this regard by focusing on the very foundation of the association. It should be achieved by writing about the old ties which are alive till today, and analyzing what values we share. It will be a colossal service towards strengthening this bond.