On prez poll eve, task force says India wants peaceful, stable Afghanistan

New Delhi, Apr.4: Releasing the “Afghanistan Task Force Report: What India Can Do” Ambassador Satinder K. Lambah, Special Envoy of the Prime Minister of India, said Friday: “It is a matter of satisfaction that all the important and formidable candidates in tomorrow’s presidential elections in Afghanistan stand for close friendship with India.”

The report has been jointly prepared by the Ananta Aspen Centre and the Delhi Policy Group, a prominent Indian think tank which deals with security and conflict resolution issues.

In view of this, India sees support to the Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF) as an important part of its commitment to the Afghan people, Mr.Lambah noted.

He said India will continue to provide assistance in accordance with Afghan requests and priorities, and called security sector assistance an important element of the Strategic Partnership Agreement between the two countries.

Lambah said, “Our vision of Afghanistan is of a stable and peaceful hub linking Centraland South Asia through a network of trade, transit and pipelines for the ultimate benefit of the countries and the people in the region. India is working with Afghanistan for its integration with the regional economy since 2002.”

“I hope, therefore, that the promised development of Chahbahar Port through cooperation between India and Iran is also realized soon,” Lambah added.

He observed that India had reached out to all of Afghanistan’s neighbours and other stakeholders in Afghanistan for a constructive engagement that places Afghan interests at the centre of our efforts.

India’s engagement with Iran, Russia and China,besides Central Asia, had increased, the special envoy pointed out.

He said India remained engaged with the U.S. and continued to seek similar cooperation with Pakistan on Afghanistan.

Recalling his close involvement with developments in Afghanistan over a period spanning more than two decades, Lambah described the landlocked country as being a frontline state that has been unique in different ways.

He also cited ten reasons why Indo-Afghan ties were equally unique. These were: (1)The first treaty of friendship in January 1950;(2) India received the first delegation of the new Afghan leadership in November 2001;(3) India and Afghanistan inked their first strategic agreement in Oct er 2011; (4) India has played an active role in Afghanistan’s development, especially in the infrastructure sector, skills, humanitarian assistance and small projects; (5) India and Afghanistan are working on integrating the regional economy since 2002; (6) India is helping Afghanistan to exploit its natural resources and extractive industries; (7) India along with Iran helping to develop connectivity with Afghanistan; (8) India’s deep involvement with the international community on Afghanistan; (9) Unprecedented high level visits between both nations and (10) Surveys and opinion polls depicting Indian aid to Afghanistan as most suitable

Commenting on the political situation ahead of the presidential polls, Lambah said it is significant that such an election is being held for the third time in the last decade, and what was most credible, was the fact that violence and insurgent threats was not as omnipresent in the two previous polls.

He hoped for a peaceful democratic transition, and for a government that would be inclusive, balanced, representative and accomodative of views of all sections of Afghan society.

Lambah also expressed confidence about Afghanistan’s capacity to handle both external and internal security challenges, and expected the international community to remain committed in its support to the Afghan National Security Forces or ANSF.

He also said a few words about the Afghan economy and the importance of regional cooperation

“Afghans want a normal future for their country.They believe that they can succeed, with all that they have built, and with help and understanding from the world. Afghans have for centuries found their internal balance and fiercely guarded their sovereignty,” concluded Lambah.

In preparing the report, task force members visited Afghanistan, China, Iran and Tajikistan. Its recommendations have been developed after a series of bilateral, trilateral and regional meetings in Kabul, Herat, Goa, Jaipur, New Delhi, Afghanistan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, the U.S. and Uzbekistan, as well as the EU and UN.

The event was co-chaired by Ambassador G. Parthasarathy, former High Commissioner to Pakistan and Australia and Ambassador to Myanmar, on behalf of Ananta Aspen Centre and Dr.Radha Kumar of DPG, a former Interlocutor of the GOI on Jammu and Kashmir.

The others on the task force were Leela K. Ponappa, VikramSood, Lt. Gen. (Retd) Aditya Singh, Shahid Mahdi, and Indrani Bagchi and Anand K. Sahay.

The task force recommendations cover all aspects of India-Afghanistan relations, including security, economy, politics and diplomacy, with security considerations constituting the core.

The report posits that India has good reason to be concerned about the post-2014 period as Indian security was severely threatened by factions in Afghanistan and from across the border in Pakistan since the late 1990s and could be threatened once again. This is an eventuality that the Indian government must seek to prevent.

The report maintains that India needs to step up its political, diplomatic, and security relations with Afghanistan, both bilaterally and multilaterally.

It observes that India shares a common interest with Afghanistan in strengthening the bilateral strategic partnership through substantive and long-term exchanges in all sectors, including security.

Mere supply of infrastructure and economic assistance without backing it with a display of the intention to protect Indian interests would be a waste of strategic effort and investment, “not to mention the Indian lives we lost there,” said Radha Kumar.

Simultaneously, India should maintain active dialogue and cooperate with all major external players in creating an environment that helps to secure peace, stability and economic and social progress in Afghanistan. (ANI)