VIF-RUSI-CICIR International Seminar on “Afghanistan Post - 2014 : Perspectives from the Region”
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Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF) organised a Seminar on “Afghanistan Post 2014- Perspectives from the Region” on 30th Nov 2012, in which experts from RUSI (Royal United Services Institute), CICIR (China Institute of Contemporary International Relations) and VIF took part. Mr Alexander Neill along with Mr Mathew Willis represented the RUSI, while the delegation from CICIR was led by their Vice President Dr. Feng Zhongping along with Dr. Hu Shisheng, Dr. Fu Xiaoqiang, Dr. Wang Shida and Mr. Han Liqun. From the VIF’s side, Joint Director,VIF, Amb. P. P. Shukla, Chairman, VIF Vice Adm.(retd) K. K. Nayyar, Gen.(retd) N. C. Vij, Lt.Gen.(retd) Ravi Sawhney, Amb. Satish Chandra, Air Marshal (retd.) K. K. Nohwar, Former Chief R&AW CD Sahay, Amb Bhaskar Mitra, Amb Rajiv Sikri, Maj Gen Ramesh Chopra along with other VIF scholars took part in the deliberations.

The Regional Dynamics: Afghanistan and the Internal Drivers for Afghanistan post 2014 were the themes that were discussed in Session I while Session II focussed on the Capacity Building for the government of Afghanistan and the Afghan National Security Forces.

In the Inaugural Session, Mr Haseeb Humayoon presented his views on the perspectives from Afghanistan on the Post 2014 scenario in his country. He acknowledged that the year 2014 is a source of anxiety in Afghanistan and a burning topic globally. The twin scenarios of a civil war breaking out and the takeover by Taliban according to him are detached from the realities on the ground, as the country has been transformed drastically and the political actors have undergone change. There has been a transformation of fundamentals in the country that would have a bearing on the future of the country. Firstly, the constitutional order that was crafted in 2004 has increasingly internalised itself. Secondly, the Taliban as an insurgent group and the people affiliated with them are reaching an exhaustion point. Taliban is no longer a cohesive force and has lost its assets. Although, the myth of the people around which the organisation was formed remains but the capability of force no longer exists. Thirdly, the dual transformation of the political elite along with demographic shift in the country has taken place. In addition, he asserted that the main challenge in 2014 for Afghanistan is the political transition in the country rather than the NATO forces withdrawal.

Dr Wang Shida, Researcher in Institute of South Asia & Southeast Asia and Oceania Studies, presented the Chinese perspective in Session one. He opined that contradictory concerns of different regional countries would become the main obstacle in finding a settlement in Afghanistan. He suggested regional co-operation on the Afghanistan issue by establishing a principle to that effect, by respecting the territorial integrity of Afghanistan, as also to help it establish rational friendly relations with all its neighbouring countries and have co-ordination between the regional regimes and the US. he also underlined the need to address the regional concerns of Pakistan, Iran and China. Additionally, he suggested that the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) should become a platform to cooperate on the Afghanistan issue, as it includes all the stakeholders of the Afghanistan problem. He also suggested the establishment of a security assurance regime that punishes anyone among the regional countries who try to meddle in the domestic affairs of Afghanistan, in pursuance of their own national interests.

While giving the British objective Dr. Alexander Neill from RUSI, highlighted the overarching objective of UK in Afghanistan, which is to have a state that stays standing after 2014, sufficient capacity to contain insurgent threats, an upward developmental trajectory, state-building objective supports the UK's interest in counter terrorism and contribution to efforts to build links with Pakistan. He also put forth the argument that failure is also a real possibility as the drawdown of ISAF forces accelerates in 2013 and 2014; there is a real risk that the ANSF will lose ground to insurgency. He also recommended that there was a need to re-consider integrated strategies for Afghanistan and Pakistan. The role of the regional powers post 2014 was highlighted. He brought into focus the deterioration of the US- Pakistan relationship as well as the Karzai factor in 2014. In addition the Tajik Pashtun friction leading to a tug of war to control Afghanistan, as also the role of Pakistan in limiting India’s influence was explained by him.

Amb. Satish Chandra, Distinguished Fellow, VIF, gave the Indian Perspective while highlighting the old cultural and historical ties between the two countries. He mentioned the consistent economic and technical assistance given by India and the 2 billion dollar developmental assistance given to Afghanistan since 9/11 as one of its most effective and successful foreign development programmes anywhere in the world. Commenting on the current situation and the possible post 2014 scenarios he said that they are confused and the present government has so far not been able to strike deep roots. He further mentioned that although the Taliban have been unable to hold ground yet, they have exhibited the capability to strike back anytime anywhere. He opined that the military situation in Afghanistan is stalemated and likely to remain so in 2014. However, it could change if Pakistan backs Taliban and the Haqqani network. The elements of best case scenario post 2014 would include the continuance of the Bonn era political framework, with the holding of a reasonably free and fair parliamentary and presidential elections in 2014 and bringing a representative government to power that would have respect domestically and internationally. This, in turn, would require the continuance of the support of the International Community towards Afghanistan’s security, stability and economy.

Describing the worst case scenario post 2014, he envisaged the overthrow of the existing dispensation by the Taliban after a bitter and long Civil War, which would lead to a breakup of the country as the Taliban would be opposed by the Pashtuns. This scenario, he maintained, would require the backing of Pakistan. Listing India’s options, he said that India was interested in having a stable progressive Afghanistan. Strengthening the hands of the current and future government by financial and technical support as well as training ANSF on Indian soil and giving equipment, deepening cooperation with all sections off society would be the way forward by India. He also stressed on the sovereign right of Afghan people to decide about the future of their country. He highlighted the role of Pakistan post 2014 that would have an important bearing on the outcome of the future.

In the Second Session, Mr. Mathew Willis of RUSI maintained that the likelihood of the Taliban coming to power and the eruption of a civil war are low; as and when the western troops pull out the major objection of the Taliban would be removed and hence would no excuse to remain in an offensive mode. On the question of ideology driving the Taliban, he asserted that although the leadership of Taliban was ideologically driven yet, the majority of the forces are driven by the western presence. Hence, he opined that the ANSF is not facing a united and ideologically motivated enemy.

A number of observations were made by Mr Hu Shisheng, Director of Institute of South Asia & Southeast Asia and Oceania Studies. He opined that the outside forces including China should reinforce provincial governance, especially during the transition period, rather than stressing on a strong central government. Secondly, he recommended the withdrawal of the foreign troops specially ISAF to be postponed till 2015 to safeguard the parliamentary as well as presidential elections due that year, which would guarantee normal political transition. Thirdly, he recommended more tolerance for the traditional Sharia laws and said rather it should be a combination of the modern judicial system and traditional system to make it workable, rather than aim for an ideal system. Fourthly, he called for more sensitivity to the security concerns of Afghanistan’s neighbours Iran and Pakistan. Fifthly, in order to make Afghanistan more developed provincial governments should play a bigger role in the socio-economic development and its neighbours should help develop adjacent regions more. He stressed that the regional powers should take more interest in the non-traditional security threats like drug economy, neutralising regional extremist groups etc, and not be dependent on US over such issues.

Giving various aspects of capacity building Lt Gen (retd) Ravi Sawhney, Distinguished Fellow, VIF, highlighted the requirement of revisiting the constitution. In addition, he maintained the importance of investment in Afghanistan as well as trade that should move seamlessly as it is an important link connecting regions. He mentioned that the creation of a proper army takes time and would require continued effort as well as training. In the haste of recruiting one should not bring the wrong kind of people to power.

Report Prepared by Neha Mehta

Event Date 
November 30, 2012
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