New Delhi, April 04, 2014: Releasing the “Afghanistan Task Force Report: What India Can Do” jointly prepared by Ananta Aspen Centre (formerly Aspen Institute India) and the Delhi Policy Group, a prominent Indian think tank which deals with security and conflict resolution issues, Ambassador S. K. Lambah, Special Envoy of the Prime Minister of India, said on 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.”
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.
Mr. Lambah said, “Our vision of Afghanistan is of a stable and peaceful hub linking Central and 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”, Mr. 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.
In preparing the Report, Task Force members have visited Afghanistan, China, Iran and Tajikistan, and its recommendations have been developed after a series of bilateral, trilateral and regional meetings in Kabul, Herat, Goa, Jaipur and New Delhi involving Afghanistan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, the U.S. and Uzbekistan, as well as the EU and UN. We hope that the Task Force Report will offer value as resource material to those interested in Afghanistan and in India-Afghanistan relations.
The TF was co-chaired by Ambassador G. Parthasarathy, formerly India’s 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, Vikram Sood, Lt. Gen (Retd) Aditya Singh, Shahid Mahdi, and Indrani Bagchi and Anand K. Sahay. The TF 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. India’s developmental assistance to Afghanistan has thus far been shaped to build infrastructure, aid capacity building and support social empowerment, all as per Afghanistan’s own requests; this must now be expanded to incorporate military cooperation, the Report seeks to underline.
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”, adds 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.
The Report notes the uncertainties that permeate the security, political and economic transitions in Afghanistan as the withdrawal of American and International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) approaches in the course of 2014. It points out that the security transition hinges on the ability of the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces to maintain peace and stability within the country in the face of terrorist violence by the Taliban, who continue to receive sustenance from and in Pakistan. The security threat is thus both internal and external.
The view taken in the Report is that ANDSF have the intrinsic capability to deal with the threats but are underequipped and underfinanced. They require appropriate and adequate personnel and equipment to be able to achieve their objectives of safeguarding Afghanistan’s people and territory and defending the country’s borders.