A Talk on ‘India-Afghanistan Relations: Recent Developments and Implications’, by H.E. Salahuddin Rabbani, Foreign Minister of Afghanistan
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H.E. Salahuddin Rabbani, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, concluded his three-day visit to India with a talk on ‘India-Afghanistan Relations: Recent Developments and Implications’, delivered at the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF) on 12 Sep 2017. H.E. Rabbani, who visited India for the 2nd meeting of the India-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Council, described his interactions with his Indian counterpart Mrs. Sushma Swaraj and other key government officials as highly successful and productive. As part of his talk, H.E. Rabbani dealt with a wide range of bilateral and regional issues, besides spelling out foreign policy priorities for his government. Following the talk, the Minister interacted with an audience which comprised policy analysts, strategic thinkers, opinion makers, media personnel, and Indian and foreign diplomats, among others. Notably, a high-level delegation from Afghanistan which accompanied the Foreign Minister and comprised Mr. Hekmat Khalil Karzai, Dy Foreign Minister, H.E. Dr. Shaida Mohd Abdali, Ambassador to India, Ms. Kamela Sediqii, Deputy Minister of Commerce and Industries, and Ms. Sayeda Muzghan Mostavi, Deputy Minister of Information and Culture among other members of the Afghan delegation, also formed part of the audience. The presence of Amb Manpreet Vohra, India’s Ambassador to Afghanistan, was conspicuous amongst prominent Indian invitees to a high-profile event.

In his introduction and welcome remarks, General NC Vij, Director, VIF, described H.E. Rabbani as a diplomat who wields enormous influence across all sections of Afghanistan both as country’s Foreign Minister and as Chairman of Afghan High Peace Council. The Director’s opening remarks, among other things, highlighted the underpinnings of a refurbished and recently announced US strategy on Afghanistan, a strategy that nails Pakistan as a state which provides safe sanctuaries to terrorist networks. The Director further stated that forcing compliance on Pakistan to end its support to terrorist networks is crucial to the success of US’ new strategy on Afghanistan. Underlining peace and stability in Afghanistan as central to the region’s peace and security, General Vij reaffirmed India’s unwavering commitment to help Afghanistan re-build itself.

At the outset of his talk, H.E. Rabbani expressed satisfaction with the progress India and Afghanistan are jointly making in key areas of bilateral cooperation such as political, security, trade & commerce, environment, and human resource development. The Minister spoke sanguinely about a few of India’s mega projects in Afghanistan – the new Parliament Building and Salma Dam, among others, built up with Indian assistance, which have generated tremendous goodwill for India across Afghanistan due to their high visibility. While the minister spoke with candour across a wide range of issues, including the recent development in Afghanistan, foreign policy priorities of the National Unity Government in Afghanistan, the status of India-Afghanistan bilateral relations and the international support to peace and stability in Afghanistan among other issues, a key focus of his talk, however, rested on the US Government’s new strategy on Afghanistan. According to the Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, the new strategy provides a new opportunity for tri-lateral cooperation between the United States, India and Afghanistan. The three key elements of the new Afghan strategy were outlined as: an open-ended commitment to fighting terrorism and violent extremism, both in Afghanistan and the region, increased regional cooperation in Afghanistan with a call on India to do more in Afghanistan, and an emphasis on targeting safe sanctuaries of terrorists.

Among other highlights of H.E. Rabbani’s insightful talk, he stressed on building trust among neighbours and finding regional responses to regional challenges. He also reiterated that achieving peace and security in Afghanistan is a pre-requisite to achieving peace and security in the region and building a continental Asia. In so far as bilateral ties between India and Afghanistan are concerned, these are strong and time-tested while further progress is being made across a range of mutually agreed areas, especially connectivity, trade and commerce etc., he stated. The Minister stressed that India and Afghanistan share a common vision of development, peace, security and wellbeing of not just each other but of the entire region as well. As the Minister spoke candidly, he was heard with rapt attention by an inquisitive audience who later quizzed him during the Q&A session on a whole range of issues, including Pakistan’s dubious track record on dealing with terrorism, role of regional players and the presence of the ISIS in Afghanistan, among others.

Event Date: 
September 12, 2017