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Afghanistan’s Foreign Policy

December 2, 2011 2 comments

Afghanistan’s Foreign Policy
Monday, 14 February 2011 07:41

Overview:

As a Muslim nation, Afghanistan is determined to become a member of the family of pluralistic democracies; and a bridge between the Islamic World and the West, by pursuing a multilateral , cooperative and confident
Foreign Policy.
London Conference on Afghanistan, 31st of January 2006

The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’s diplomacy is based on the fundamental beliefs, values and goals, which are anchored in Articles 7 and 8 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan: The state shall regulate the foreign policy of the country on the basis of preserving the independence, national interests and territorial integrity as well as non-interference, good neighborliness, mutual respect and equality of rights (article 8) . The state shall observe the United Nations Charter, inter-state agreements, as well as international treaties to which Afghanistan has joined, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights…(article 7)

In this critical moment of our history, Afghanistan has started the process of reconstruction and democratization.

Parallel to the emerging partnership between Afghanistan and the international community, Afghanistan’s foreign relations have undergone major changes. Following the collapse of the Taliban regime, the Afghan Government has begun a proactive policy to strengthen and consolidate its relations with the international community.

Afghanistan is determined not only to be a land-bridge between Central Asia, the Sub-Continent and the Middle East, but also a bridge between the Islamic world and the family of pluralistic democracies. We recognize the difficulties for such an undertaking. However, we remain confident with the support of our international partners, we can indeed move in that direction.

Our Neighbours:

We view regional countries, in particular our immediate neighbors among the most important countries for Afghanistan. Because of decades of war and bloodshed in the country, Afghanistan lost its traditionally and conventionally balanced relations with its neighbors. During recent troubled years it was often treated as a sub-state entity, rather than an independent and sovereign nation. Since the demise of the Taliban, the government here has sought to change the dynamics of our relations with our neighbors. We wanted to convey two messages to our neighbors: Firstly, Afghanistan wants to be an equal partner; and secondly, that Afghanistan wants to be the catalyst for regional cooperation.

Regional Cooperation:

In an increasingly interdependent world, we see regional cooperation as the best venue to reduce tension, resolve conflict and to succeed in the competitive markets in our global village. Individual nation-state can only survive and prosper only by integrating into regional cooperation mechanisms. The model of the European Union is an encouraging and inspiring one. In our view, replicating the experience of the EU in our region is a huge challenge but not an impossible task. In this context, it is important to have a vision. We then try to work towards the attainment of that vision by serious and sustained commitment, planning, and efforts by all countries of the region.
The Afghan Foreign Minister at the Second Ministerial Meeting of Central Asia Plus Japan Dialogue
6 th of June, Tokyo

Today, in Afghanistan, we have initiated some steps in that direction. In December 2002, we succeeded in signing the “Kabul Declaration on Good Neighborly Relations”, in which Afghanistan and its neighbors reaffirmed their commitment to constructive and supportive bilateral relationships based on the principles of territorial integrity, mutual respect, friendly relations, cooperation and non-interference in the internal affairs of one another. Furthermore, we gained membership of the SAARC and the CICA.

Islamic World:

Strengthening our relations with the Islamic states constitutes another priority for Afghanistan’s foreign policy. As a Muslim country, we place special importance on our relations with the rest of the Islamic countries.

We salute the resilience of the People of Palestine for their unfailing efforts and patience for self-determination. Supporting Palestinians’ rights, in accordance with the resolutions of the Security Council of the United Nations, H.E. King Abdullah’s Initiative and the “Roadmap” remains the official policy of Afghanistan.

Afghanistan welcomes the formation of the “National Unity” government In Iraq. After many years of hardship, the people of Iraq deserve our full support. We are confident the new Government of Iraq will work towards, peace, stability and national reconciliation.

Afghanistan views the Organization of the Islamic Conference as one of the best venues to seek solution to many our challenges, including underdevelopment, in particular in the fields of research and education, inter and intra state conflicts, fanaticism, and Islamophobia.

United States:

We consider our strategic relations with the United States of America as pivotal to our success in overcoming the legacy of war and conflict in Afghanistan, and becoming a democratic and prosperous nation. As the “Joint Declaration of the United States-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership” confirms, our relations with the United States of America is multifaceted. It includes cooperation in the fields of security, development, civil society, education, and regional as well as international issues.

United Nations:

We appreciate the important contribution of the United Nations to international peace, stability and development since its inception. We believe the UN should play a more active role in global affairs, in particular in the fields of development, environment and international justice. In order to assume such a role, the member states should help the UN to address some of its structural deficiencies, including under-presentation of developing nations in the influential bodies of the UN, and the UN bureaucracy.
We also fully support the mission and objectives of the United Nations Assistance in Afghanistan. We are in the view that the UNAMA should strengthen its co-coordinating role.

EU & NATO:

We also attach strategic importance to our relations with the European Union, and NATO who have been among our most generous and committed friends. We fully appreciate the positive role that the EU has been playing in Afghanistan, in particular its commitments and efforts towards transnational justice. We welcome NATO’s expanding missions in Afghanistan since they took over command of ISAF in August 2003. Afghanistan is keen to establish an enduring partnership with NATO.

Terrorism:

Terrorism remains our prime concern. As a multifaceted phenomenon, terrorism is often conditioned by its environment. In the case of Afghanistan, we and the growing numbers of our international partners are convinced that terrorists receive sustained support from outside Afghanistan.

Countries have to be sincere in their support for our common struggle against terrorism. We must be united in opposing those who continue to use terrorism as a means of statecraft, in full conformity with the principles of international law and norms.

Terrorists do not discriminate amongst their victims, as the background of victims of almost all recent terrorist attacks, including New York, Madrid, Bali, Istanbul, Casablanca, London, Karachi, and Kandahar have revealed. As such, it is wrong and also counterproductive to associate terrorism with a single community and faith.

The nature of terrorism calls upon the international community to pursue a united, determined and principled campaign against both the symptoms, and also the causes and sources of terrorism.

Counter Narcotics:

On behalf of the Government, the Ministry of Counter Narcotics leads the coordination, policy making, monitoring and evaluation of all counter narcotics activities and efforts, in the context of Afghan constitution, and Afghan Drug Law and Drug Control, Afghanistan’s National Drug Control Strategy. We fully recognize the nature of threat that Narcotics presents to the very existence of the state of Afghanistan, should we fail to implement a multifaceted strategy to combat it. Since drug is also a “demand-driven” challenge, full involvement of the international community is essential to our success.

Underdevelopment:

Another important issue for Afghanistan is “North-South” relations. In our view, in an ever-increasing interdependent world, the dynamic of relations between the two should be determined by the realities of our global village. We should recognize that our faiths have become interlinked. In a globalizing world, security and prosperity are indivisible. There is an urgent need to view the global challenges as our common challenges and responsibilities. This requires a partnership between the “South” and the “North”, to address existing challenges and also the legacy of colonial policies.

Sustainable Development:

Another important issue is the ways to achieve sustainable development. In our view, sustainable development cannot be achieved unless we give sufficient attention to protection of our environment, and more importantly to social justice, both domestically and globally.

Fortunately, there are important initiatives and mechanisms which provide avenues and opportunities for the international community to discharge their responsibilities, in particular towards future generations such as the UN Millennium Development Goals.

Weapons of Mass Destruction:

In view of the nature of modern warfare, we regard using most types of weapons of mass destruction as contrary to the international norms. We are seeking a universal disarmament of all nuclear weapons. We fully support an Asia and the Middle-East free of nuclear weapons.

Cooperation among Civilization:

A peaceful future for our world lays not in the clash of civilizations, but in “Cooperation among Civilizations”, a theme that has tirelessly advocated over the recent years by H.E President Karzai. We believe that there is no one single and superior approach to overcome the many global challenges. We are committed to pluralism. The attributes of an ideal man according to a 10th-century Muslim scholar, Ikhwan- al– Safa, inspires us and those of who believe in pluralism. According to Ikhwan- al– Safa an ideal man is:

“Persian by breeding, Arab in faith, Hanafite [one of Islam’s schools of law, which is known to be moderate] in his Islam, Iraqi in culture, Hebrew in lore, Christian in manners, Damascene in piety, Greek in the sciences, Indian in contemplation, Sufi in intimations, regal in character, masterful in thought, and divine in insight.”

Throughout its history, Afghanistan has been at a junction of the land routes from China and India to the West and a meeting place of numerous and dynamic nations and cultures. As such, it has been a filter through which artistic styles, religious forms, and political ideas radiated in all directions. We are confident in the 21st century, Afghanistan will become once again a successful model of “Cooperation among Civilizations”.

Indian-Afghan Strategic Partnership: Perceptions From The Ground – Analysis

December 2, 2011 1 comment

Indian-Afghan Strategic Partnership: Perceptions From The Ground – Analysis

Written by:

October 27, 2011

On October 4, 2011, the day that India and Afghanistan signed an agreement on strategic partnership, I traveled from Kabul to Kandahar, getting what was for me a rare glimpse of the average Afghan’s perception of Indian developmental activity in his country. What was striking was the widespread support I saw in the Pashtun heartland for an even greater Indian role in rebuilding the Afghan economy and society. There is demand in Kandahar for India to add to the lone refrigeration facility it built, as Afghan goods are otherwise sold to the Pakistanis, who keep them in their own refrigeration facilities and then sell them back to the Afghans at much higher prices.

In the Arghandab Valley, traditionally known for its pomegranates, locals seek help in establishing storage, processing and transit facilities. The airport manager at the Kandahar International airport, Ahmedullah Faizi, highlighted the need for more cargo flights to export pomegranates and dry fruits. On direct flights from Kandahar to Delhi, there has been a notable increase in the number of visitors to India for health care, tourism and education. Women who had been queuing up with their young children since 5 o’clock in the morning at an Indian medical facility in Kandahar expressed appreciation for India’s assistance. In discussions with Shah Wali Karzai, Qayoom Karzai and Mehmood Karzai in Kandaharthe day after the agreement was signed, the Karzai brothers were clear on their desire for India to invest in cement factories, irrigation and power projects, road and canal building, and an increase the number of scholarships for Afghan students to study professional courses like management and public administration in India.

Afghanistan - India RelationsAfghanistan – India Relations

The agreement came on the heels of the killing of former President Burhanuddin Rabbani and the subsequent suspension of reconciliation talks with the Taliban, leading many to conclude that it was signed in order to isolate Pakistan. What these critics have missed is that the agreement was more than five months in the making, designed to address the long-standing demands of the Afghan people. A series of official visits and private deliberations since January of this year culminated in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s announcement in May of the two countries’ plans for a strategic partnership. During an interview in Kabul in the days following the establishment of the pact, former Interior Minister Ali Jalali said he “recognizes the agreement as a document officializing [sic] the close ties that already exist between the two countries.” Shah Mahmood Miakhel, former Deputy Minister of Interior, strongly supported the agreement as “useful for reconstruction and stability of Afghanistan to prevent civil war or proxy war.”

This development should silence the critics of India’s aid-only policy. Some senior Indian officials and former diplomats I have spoken to warned that India could get caught in a “reputation trap,” where it is overstretched economically in a country of “negative security interests.” The agreement is an affirmation of India’s maturing foreign policy in the region. It is also a natural corollary of the constructive role India has played in Afghan development efforts thus far. In the last ten years, India has contributed close to $2 billion in aid, making it Afghanistan’s fifth largest bilateral donor, and garnering much appreciation from the local population. The success of development efforts in Afghanistan is clearly a key aspect of achieving stability there. Thus, the Afghan-Indian strategic agreement may be seen as the consolidation of gains made by India’s soft power approach, as well as an expansion of India’s plans to secure its national security interests. A strong, stable and democratic Afghanistan would reduce the dangers of the return of extremist forces to the seats of power, and the potential spillover of radicalism and violence that would destabilize the entire region.

The agreement is important in that it touches on a wide range of issues that are critical to sustaining progress in Afghanistan. India’s decision to expand the training of Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), particularly the Afghan National Police (ANP), is a significant step toward building local capacity for providing security. The trade and economic agreements in the pact are a reiteration of India’s commitment to Afghanistan’s economic growth, and its role as a “bridge” between South Asia and Central Asia. The emphasis on “regional economic cooperation” in the ASP indicates India’s vision of binding the countries in the region through a mutually beneficial cooperative framework. Finally, the agreement’s capacity building and educational initiatives are a pledge from India to invest in the future leadership of Afghanistan.

India is indeed looking beyond merely engaging the Karzai government, or indulging one ethnic or political faction. The strategic agreement ensures the continuity of India’s initiatives by making them free from the politics, whims and personal fancies of future leaders. Assertions that India’s foreign policy does not usually have a long-term vision no longer apply in the case of Afghanistan. An institutional mechanism for continued engagement in Afghanistan in the form of this agreement is bound to cultivate a broad range of stakeholders in that country, preventing a complete reversal later of the gains it makes in the short term.

New Delhi and Kabul have insisted on multiple occasions that they are willing to accommodate Pakistani interests in Afghanistan. President Karzai said after the signing of the agreement that the new partnership with India was not meant as a form of aggression toward Pakistan. One hopes that in spite of the criticisms the Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued of the strategic pact, the country will see reason in adopting a mature and rational Afghan policy. As one Afghan political leader in Kandahar said to me, “if Pakistan has to compete with India in gaining good will among the Afghans, it has to be on the plank of reconstruction and development, and not acts of subversion and selective assassinations or providing sanctuaries [to militants].”

No commentary on Indian-Afghan relations would be complete without addressing the most pressing question: Can India sustain or even expand its activities in Afghanistan beyond the NATO withdrawal date in 2014? The strategic agreement has provided a much-needed mechanism for a continued relationship beyond this deadline, without being subjected to the vagaries of future governments in Kabul or New Delhi, or to the prevailing regional security environment. For Afghans it is surely a sign that India is a reliable partner who has stepped in firmly when the West seems to be in a hurry to quit.

This article appeared in Foreign Policy and is reprinted with the author’s permission

About the author:

Dr Shanthie Mariet D’Souza is a Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS), an autonomous research institute at the National University of Singapore. She can be contacted at isassmd@nus.edu.sg.

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