Thursday, March 21, 2013

VIF Delegation Visits Beijing for Seminar on “Afghanistan Post 2014; Perspectives from the Region”

A five member VIF delegation led by Mr. Ajit Doval and comprising of Amb. PP Shukla, Gen. (Retd.) NC Vij, Lt.Gen. (Retd.) Ravi Sawhney and Brig. (Retd.) Vinod Anand visited Beijing from 13 to 15 March 2013 to participate in a seminar and interact with some of the think tanks of China.
On 13th March a trilateral seminar between China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, Vivekananda International Foundation and Royal United Services Institute, UK was organized to delibrate on ‘Afghanistan Post 2014: Perspectives from the Region’. The opening remarks were made by Prof. Malcolm Chalmers of RUSI, Mr. Ajit Doval and Mr. Yang Mingjie, Vice President (CICIR); all highlighted the need for regional cooperation to usher in peace and stability in Afghanistan.
First Session was devoted to prospects of political stability in Afghanistan where Prof. Wang Shida gave out Chinese perspective on the political and security situation in Afghanistan. He was appreciative of the negotiations process with Taliban. Sir William Patey, former UK Ambassador to Afghanistan opined that parties are not likely to deliver what is planned; post-2014 situation would be messy but manageable. Lt. Gen Sawhney stressed that security situation would be impacted by the exit policy; there was a need to build up the Afghan national security forces and provide them with adequate budget; conduct of Presidential elections in a free and fair manner with proper security arrangements was very necessary.

Second Session dwelt on Afghanistan’s Economic Future. All the three speakers i.e. Dr. Raffaello Pantucci (RUSI), Dr. Hu Shisheng and Vinod Anand brought the importance of exploiting mineral and hydro carbon wealth of Afghanistan to generate revenues for Afghan government. There was a need for private sector investment in Afghanistan but because of adverse security situation the private companies were reluctant to invest. It was highlighted that Afghanistan is a hub for multimodal corridors that could go in all directions for increasing trading and investment activity which again could generate large amount of revenues on a sustained basis but this would require building of infrastructure and regional cooperation. Some measures have already been taken in this direction but much more needs to be done. Further, a quick or accelerated withdrawal by the NATO/ISAF troops would also impact the Afghan economy adversely. The need for coordination between China and India on this aspect was also emphasised.

The third Session dwelt upon 2014 and implications for regional security. Gen NC Vij highlighted the role of Pakistan and Pakistani based Taliban groups in the ongoing turmoil in Afghanistan. He underlined the fact that entire process seems to be Pakistan-centric rather than Afghan centric with Pakistan aiming to be in the driver’s seat. Dr. Wang Xu discussed four possible scenarios in Afghanistan which included low level civil war, possible division, a relative power balance scenario and a worst case scenario. He also stressed that China’s Western Area Development plan cannot be realized unless there is stability in Afghanistan. He was of the opinion that SCO’s counter terror mechanism could be useful.

In Session IV the possible regional mechanisms for solving the Afghan puzzle were discussed. Amb. PP Shukla discussed the importance of all the neighbours including their interests. He was of the opinion that in case Taliban reverts to power it is unlikely that it will mend its ways as its ideology is deeply rooted in the Salafi/Wahabi mindset. Dr. Wang Xu questioned the formulation of third party meddling in Afghan affairs; he was of the opinion that there are too many parties to the Afghan issue. Therefore, can a limit to how many members should be there in a regional mechanism be drawn? According to him a regional mechanism under the aegis of the U.N would be more conducive for addressing the Afghan issue.
The closing remarks were given by Mr. Ajit Doval, Prof. Malcolm Chalmers and Mr. Yang Mingjie. There was a general consensus that what is needed is an Afghanistan which does not collapse after the western troops leave. There was a need to build up the ANSF and bring peace and stability in Afghanistan. Cooperation between China and India to help Afghanistan would also find positive resonance in the region.

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