By Mohammad Anil Qasemi
If there is one nearby neighbour that
ordinary Afghans have always felt especially close to, it is India.
The country has been a friend to us in word
and deed. It is the biggest regional donor to Afghanistan and our fifth largest
donor globally, having generously given us over $3 billion in assistance. India
has built over 200 public and private schools, sponsors over 1,000 scholarships
and hosts over 16,000 Afghan students.
In the aftermath of the 2008 Indian embassy
bombing in Kabul, the Afghan Foreign Ministry talked of India as a "brother
country" and the relationship between the two as one which "no enemy
In 2011, relations between Afghanistan and
India grew closer still, with the signing of a strategic partnership agreement
— Afghanistan's first since the Soviet invasion of 1979.
Whatever the outcome of the current
bilateral peace talks in Doha between the Taliban and the American government —
and we all pray fervently for peace — India will continue to play a big role in
To the surprise of some, Afghanistan's
government is not officially represented at the Doha talks — but, along with
India, it is keeping a close eye on how they are progressing. I hope that if
sufficient progress is made, both my government, and, in time, India will
become more actively involved.
President Ashraf Ghani has himself called
for the holding of a Grand Assembly — or Loya Jirga — to bring all sides
together in the peace process and the Taliban are likely to be invited later in
The escalating crisis between India and Pakistan
is now a further worrying and complicating factor in the talks as obtaining
peace in Afghanistan is part of a much wider jigsaw of countries, politics and
Four decades of war have made the people of
Afghanistan yearn for peace. There are generations that have grown up now —
including my own — that have never, in our lives thus far, experienced peace.
As our leading businessman Hamed Warasta wrote last month, businesses can only
thrive in a secure environment.
But there is a vicious circle between
terrorism and unemployment — terrorism results in businesses relocating or
shutting down, which in turn lead to unemployment, which in turn leads to the
resentment that fuels still more terrorism and so, still more businesses
All the while, the dreams and hopes of
young people continue to be dashed.
Afghanistan's relationship with India is,
therefore, a source of great hope during particularly challenging times. The
air-corridor that we have opened as part of the bilateral trade we have with
India is especially great news. According to the Ministry of Agriculture,
Irrigation, and Livestock, Afghanistan exported 8,000 tons of figs in the past
year to India, UAE and Europe.
Afghanistan has now started exporting to
India through the Chabahar port of Iran. We are a landlocked country — India is
one of the largest export destinations for us which makes it a key partner in
improving our damaged economy. Earlier this week, 23 trucks were dispatched
from Zaranj city of Afghanistan to Chabahar port from where this cargo will be
shipped to Mumbai in India.
It was telling that President Ghani was
joined not just by the Iranian ambassador but also Vinay Kumar, India's
tireless ambassador to Afghanistan, at the inaugural ceremony of this major
route — It was a huge day for my nation and people across the country were
grateful for the support of India. Ambassador Kumar said India has dedicated
$500 million to help develop and prepare the Chabahar port.
Behind the scenes, Mr Kumar is positively
engaged with officials and politicians of Afghanistan to support the ongoing
negotiations and has usefully met and discussed the status of the peace process
with the High Peace Council members and the former President Hamed Karzai, who
led a delegation to Moscow direct talks with the Taliban.
India has also announced a clear and
consistent position on Afghanistan and they have pledged support to the peace
and reconciliation efforts.
Whatever happens in these talks, one thing
to me is very clear — Afghanistan will only be able to realise its great
potential as a contributing member of the family of nations with the support of
its "brother country".