Palki Sharma Upadhyay: Hello and welcome to this conversation "Kabul Junction: The road to Peace”. As you know, Afghanistan has been in the headlines for a peace deal that hasn't really delivered peace unfortunately. US President Joe Biden has extended the deadline for the withdrawal of US NATO troops to the 11th of September, which is the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. And the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken was in Kabul yesterday to sell the plan is, the headline today. The Taliban says that the American delayed withdrawal has opened the way for them "to take counter measures, and that the American side will be responsible for all future consequences, and not the Islamic Emirate.” So where does that leave the peace deal? And what about the role of the democratically elected government in Kabul? What are the security implications for the region and what is the future hold for the people of Afghanistan? We will discuss all this and more with our panel today. We have three leaders who have been actively involved in pushing for an Afghan led solution, Mohammad Javad Zarif Minister of Foreign Affairs, Iran; Dr. S. Jaishankar Minister of External Affairs, India; and Hamdullah Mohib National Security Adviser of Afghanistan. Gentlemen, welcome to the Raisina dialogue. Had things gone according to plan, this conversation would have been happening in Turkey, but we're happy to do it.
Mohammad Javad Zarif: To be with you.
Paiki Sharma Upadhyay: Let me begin with Hamdullah Mohib. You have a piece without any teeth, and the Taliban has declared a win. America has declared a deadline for troop pull out. Where does it leave the government of Afghanistan?
Hamdullah Mohib: Well, Hello to you and Minister Zarif, and Minister Jaishankar. I think this is a great opportunity. I see it as a time where the Afghans take full control of the security situation in our country. I have said this before, on several occasions that Afghanistan doesn't need US combat troops on the ground, what we need is the support to the ANDSF, which we're told and have been assured will continue. And that provides an opportunity for Afghanistan to move forward. On a big scale, in a big picture point, the Taliban have no reason to continue their violence in Afghanistan anymore. The reasons why they continued, are now totally out of the picture. And I think it's time for them to make real peace with the Afghan government and become part of the mainstream political society.
Palki Sharma Upadhyay: The fact that they're not doing it, this month infact there are more than 100 people who died in violent incidents in a week. Javad Zarif, in the month of January, Iran hosted senior leaders of the Taliban to exchange views that they quoted on the US brokered peace negotiations. What is on Taliban's mind? What was your assessment? Why do they continue to propagate violence?
Mohammad Javad Zarif: In our conversations with the Taliban, first of all, for our own national security, and secondly, in order to convince them that there is a need for a broad based peace in Afghanistan for an inclusive peace in Afghanistan and a Taliban should be a part of that peace, Taliban should not control that peace. The democratic institutions of Afghanistan, which has been the work of the people of Afghanistan for the past 20 years must remain in place and it must become even more inclusive with the Taliban abandoning violence and entering a political process. And I believe this is what we impressed upon the Taliban that Iran is prepared to provide any forum for Taliban and other groups in Afghanistan, particularly the government of Afghanistan, to engage in a serious talk for a movement forward. Not threats, not violence, but working for peace, working for peace within the constitutional framework of Afghanistan, which has been the work of a very serious process in Bonn just about 20 years ago, and throughout these 20 years. Now, I believe the announcement about the commitment by the United States to finally withdraw from Afghanistan in a responsible way, is a positive move, and it has to be taken in light of the realities of our region that presence of foreign forces has never contributed to peace and stability in our region, and their removal will lead to at least less grounds for violence and I think the Taliban should not use this opportunity to increase violence because as we entered the spring and the planting season, we need to respect the wishes of the people of Afghanistan, that enough is enough. Enough violence is enough. Now we have the beginning of the withdrawal of foreign forces. Now the objectives of ending foreign presence in Afghanistan have been achieved. Now is the time to work for a broad based government in Afghanistan based on the constitutional framework that already Afghanistan has agreed upon.
Palki Sharma Upadhyay: Dr. Jaishankar, India seems to be the only player that is interacting with all the key stakeholders in this process. In Tajikistan, you met with your counterparts from Turkey and Iran, and recently you met Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in New Delhi. You have also spoken to the American leadership. What do you make of the peace process?
Dr. S. Jaishankar: Look Palki, we've always believed that there should be an Afghan led, Afghan owned and Afghan controlled process, which essentially is a way of saying that, what is good for Afghanistan should be decided by Afghans and Minister Zarif and Dr. Mohib said this in different ways, but I think all of us agree on that. So what I think all of us would like to see today is what is in the collective interest of Afghanistan and I don't think that's rocket science. I think everybody agrees that peace is in the collective interest, the lack of violence, a point which Minister Zarif made, is in collective interest, development is in collective interest, deciding the will of the people through democratic means is in collective interest. So, I think the principles are laid out there, we all know what they are. The issue is, how do you get everybody to work together on what they say they believe in without going a different way because of calculations and short term interests and pressures from other parties that they may feel. So I think, in a way, what all of us see in President Biden's announcement is a big step which is going to take Afghanistan in a certain direction and it's important that we all work together to ensure that the direction is right and the outcomes are good for Afghanistan.
Palki Sharma Upadhyay: So we all agree that it's best for foreign troops to withdraw. Dr. Jaishankar how does India then see the security implications for the region and also for India’s developmental efforts in Afghanistan?
Dr. S. Jaishankar: I mean, there could be opinions, whether somebody should stay on longer, shorter differently. I think many of us felt toward that responsibly, that the presence of Americans there is drawn down responsibly. Now bear in mind, they're not only foreigners in Afghanistan, there are other foreigners there as well. And where India is concerned, through our development projects, and I'm sure Dr. Mohib will bear me out. I think, in all the 34 Afghan provinces, we have development projects of some kind. I think in the last 20 years, we have demonstrated through our actions and projects on the ground, what our real feelings are for Afghanistan. So we believe today that there is goodwill for us, that there is a strong Indo Afghan friendship. And believe me, we really, really wish the people of Afghanistan well and we will do whatever is in our power, in our influence, in relationship with other neighbours to ensure what is the best interests of the Afghan people is ensured.
Palki Sharma Upadhyay: Hamdullah Mohib, the Taliban has said that it will not take part in any conference till the last foreign soldier has left Afghanistan. Do you think it's simply waiting for that September 11 deadline for President Biden's exit date to make its first moves?
Hamdullah Mohib: This wouldn't be the Taliban first mistake. The Taliban had a great opportunity Post US-Taliban agreement when the entire world was watching the Taliban to see what they do, what the group does. There was a lot of discussion around how the Taliban have changed, and that they would be more considerate and more tolerant of others, and that they will take this as an opportunity to lead their group to a more tolerant Afghanistan. When the discussions began, post that agreement, first of all, the Taliban went ahead and started narrative of victory, which was quite off putting for everyone in the country. The second was the international community's enthusiasm was reduced by their arrogance. And the third, all the Afghans who looked forward to engaging with the Taliban soon found out that, and in fact, there is no change in the Taliban, they have wasted these past few months and not having negotiated their settlement. They have lost their nationalistic credentials, which is something they touted, they pushed a few roads around and said that they are paving roads now and then soon after that started destroying millions of dollars’ worth of national infrastructure.
We have estimated that we lose around $900 million worth of infrastructure a year to Taliban destruction activity, which is not helping their nationalistic cause. So they're losing those credentials, they're losing reasons for fight, the Islamic world and all the scholars, including Islamic scholars from India came out and said that the war in Afghanistan has no religious legitimacy. So they are losing on every front. And if they don't take this opportunity that is presented to them now this will be another miscalculation on the part of the Taliban. I think Minister Jaishankar, referred to something very important, it's not just the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, it's also the withdrawal of foreign fighters from Afghanistan which the Taliban are working closely with and who are involved in destructive activities in our country and will continue terrorism and that will remain a threat to the region. And I think the other important part here is that we are in uncharted territory, there is a lot of uncertainty that the devil is going to be in the details of what we negotiate with the United States and NATO, as we facilitate a transition. Now, what level and what kind of support would be provided to the ANDSF? how will this transition take place? And what will the relationship look like beyond that with these and also with the region. This is a time where we work closely with our regional partners to ensure that the transition happens smoothly and also to ensure that we all work together for a peaceful and stable Afghanistan, in which the rights of all Afghans are protected, and that we maintain our sovereignty and unity in the country. And as we prepare for this, I think this forum has come at the right time, so that we can discuss or engage in a public dialogue about the way forward.
But also off line we will be talking to our partners I spoke to Ajit Doval this morning about our views and shared what we think should go and happen as we prepare for this dialogue. But then also to say that, President Ghani is perhaps the best person as the commander in chief to lead this transition. He was in charge of the transition from US troops and in NATO troops in 2014, when the majority of international troops withdrew from Afghanistan, so he knows the ins and outs of what we need to be taken care of. In the next few days, we will be putting together a team that would work with the US and in NATO to work on that transition plan and in plan ahead and like I said the devil is going to be in the details of the future cooperation and also in how we come together as a region there is consensus in the region that came out from the Troika discussion and which was announced and we welcomed as well is a United, Democratic and Sovereign Afghanistan. And I think we will work towards achieving that. And we are in the best position to do that. Again, I echo Minister Shankar’s words of an Afghan led Afghan owned and Afghan control process. This could not be better managed, and then the situation we're currently entering.
Palki Sharma Upadhyay: Javad Zarif, despite everything, it seems all sides are prepared to engage with the Taliban. But we know that the Taliban is not a monolith. And that this is not the same Taliban that was once ruling Afghanistan. Do you believe that the Taliban has changed over the past 20-25 years and how?
Mohammad Javad Zarif: Well, I have my doubts. We believe that whatever we think of the Taliban, it is a reality in Afghanistan and they have to be engaged but based on democratic terms, not based on anybody's individual self-serving terms. If the Taliban want to go back to the 90s, whether their ideology has changed or not, whether their approach has changed or not but it is impossible to go back to the 90s. Now we live in a different Afghanistan. Afghanistan has gone through 20 years of a new experiment; of course it wasn't a perfect experience. But it included rights for minorities, it included rights for various ethnicities in Afghanistan, it included referring to the will of the people. And these are important developments, we cannot forget all this. And we cannot, I have to stress we cannot create a vacuum. Taliban should not be asking for the vacuum. Taliban should start negotiating now, with the Government of Afghanistan, with the people of Afghanistan, with various groups in Afghanistan; there should be broad based conversations right now. Waiting for an eventuality where there is a vacuum and Taliban want to fill that vacuum is disaster. That is a recipe for a new war in Afghanistan, and we in the region cannot tolerate it. We simply with three million Afghan refugees in Iran, we cannot bear more burden. This is just overwhelming for the region.
The same is true for Pakistan. Everybody is putting too much into this; it is important to start negotiations for a peaceful way out. Once we have the necessary terms, I believe it is important to have a concept of peace. I think democratic forces inside the Afghanistan need to think about how to bring themselves together in order to present a unified plan for the future of Afghanistan because we know what the plan of the Taliban is. They have every right to their own plan. I'm not denying the fact that they have a right to their plan. But it is not going to be the consensus plan for the future of Afghanistan. And Emirate is not something that Afghanistan can be rebuilt upon. It is important for everybody on all sides to stress on certain principles. It was important that Russia in Moscow, everybody agreed on a democratic transition. But a democratic way to address this situation requires the details. President Ghani last week in Dushanbe made a proposal which I think has some merit provided that our Afghan friends, first of all, can establish some unity among themselves in the Democratic Front in Afghanistan, and also present the details of that plan so that we know what can be the way forward. And let me make one final point, it is important that all of us agree on not all of us all of the Afghans because I also agree with Dr. Jaishankar and Dr. Mohib that we have to have an Afghan owned, Afghan lead and Afghan controlled process. This is the only way. Others can help. We as neighbours, other powers can help. We can facilitate, we cannot dictate. This is for the Afghan people to decide. But it is for Afghans to know what at the end of the day they'll be looking at and then work out the details. It's impossible to start from the details and lead to that big picture. We need to create that big picture and we need to help Afghanistan create that big picture. In my view, that big picture should be an Afghanistan that is peaceful, that has a viable economy that has good relations with its neighbours, that is democratic, has balanced ethnic representation; it has future government and has participation of everybody in that future. If we agree on that end result, then we can work out the means to get there. And once again, I believe the withdrawal of foreign forces, responsible withdrawal of foreign forces is an important element in that end result.
Palki Sharma Upadhyay: I'm glad you brought up the point of ethnicities. And I'll come back to that. Dr. Jaishankar first, I want your thoughts on how the Taliban may have changed over the past 20 years, and it has said that the Islamic Emirate, as they call it, will under no circumstance own complete independence and establish Islamic system.
Dr. S. Jaishankar: Look, it's very difficult for me to say how the Taliban has changed. Perhaps those who are negotiating directly, maybe it's a question Dr. Mohib could answer better than me. I think what is more important is the point which Minister Zarif made which is Afghanistan has changed, and the world has changed, that, whether somebody wants to or not, you can’t today in 2021 say, well this was a world in 2001 and that's where I'd like to go back to. Bear in mind 20 years means somebody who was one or two or three years old in 2001, is in their early 20s today, someone who was 10 years old is in their 30s. Their living memory is of a very different Afghanistan and for them it's an Afghanistan where they are looking at livelihood, at opportunities, at education, at things which people all over the world aspire to. So that is why in my view it's important that the rest of us, the international community, we have a clear sense of, I mean, it is finally for the Afghan people, obviously, to determine the future. But I don't think we should let the achievements of the last 20 years and again, I'm not by any means suggesting that the last 20 years were perfect. In fact, we have our own share of complaints and issues about how things were conducted in the last 20 years. But the fact is, many things have happened in the last 20 years. They are reality today. They are part of what are the legitimate aspirations and the assumptions of the Afghan people. And I think that's very much a factor. And if I can just sort of build on a point which I made a passing reference to in my first remark, the foreign fighters. If my memory serves me, right, there was a UN report on foreign fighters in Afghanistan. Dr. Mohib or Dr. Zarif could correct me, I think they estimated them at 8000-9000, or something like that at the beginning of this year. So the real issues today are let's not debate Afghanistan as well in 2021, are we going back to 2000. The real issues today is there is a different Afghanistan, what would be a fair outcome, the most broad based outcome, which will create durable peace. To create durable peace, it has to have a bind of everybody. It cannot be the wishes of the most forceful set of people in that society. That's not how durable understandings are reached and maintained and it has to have the support of all the neighbours. I mean you look at the history of Afghanistan, the neighbours of Afghanistan, unfortunately have very often played a very negative role. Which is a point there I've made in the Dushanbe, that Afghanistan needs a double peace, it needs a peace within, and it needs a peace around. Without and unless you have both, the neighbours also need to lay off Afghanistan and let the Afghan people do what is in their best interest.
Palki Sharma Upadhyay: Hamdullah Mohib your thoughts on this on how the Taliban may have changed and what they bring to the table now? Also, how do you see this Emirate Republic dynamic playing out?
Hamdullah Mohib: Well, let me begin with the question you asked Dr. Zarif about the Taliban and the groups within. We're seeing a lot of in fighting in factions appearing among the Taliban because they have this wrong calculation that they are going to be in power and who should then lead. So we're seeing that there is a direct friction between Mullah brother in Doha who is trying to create a place for himself among the Taliban, he doesn't seem to have much on the ground realities on the ground, he tried to create a few fighting groups with Mullah Fazal, but quickly Hibatullah came and made an announcement that no groups can be created independently, that everybody should report to their representative for each province, which they call governors. Obviously, we don't think that is a right description. But that's what it is. So there is a clear fall out between Mullah brother and Hibatullah and then there comes Mullah Yaqoob who seems to want to exert his influence. So there is another group among them. So that's three and then the fourth, largest one, there are other groups, of course, among the Taliban, but the fourth largest is the Haqqani Network, who also seem to be falling out with the with the Quetta Shura who tried to exert their power over their previous dominance that were they considered. So appointing governors in areas where previously it was considered Haqqani chartered territory. So that is a third or fourth group. And then we have the group that sits in Helmand. This group then by itself, considers itself separate because they don't subscribe to the Quetta Shura and try to be independent of that. So there are several groups that are appearing among the Taliban who are waiting for power among themselves. And if there is going to be any peace deal with the Taliban, it needs to include all of these groups. It can't just be brother leading the Doha negotiating team, there needs to be a representative or be a presence of Yaqoob’s group, there needs to be brothers and Hibatullahs, and Haqqanis and also then the Helmand group needs to be able to come together and say. So we have one question on that.
The second is that there is a lot of parallels being drawn these days in with the situation in Afghanistan today, there is a parallel with the 1990s. And there are parallel with other countries where US troops are withdrawn from or where big powers have engaged or disengaged. And I think that's wrong. Both Minister Zarif and Minister Jaishankar referred to the changes that have happened in Afghanistan is not what it was. This is, as I said earlier an unchartered territory, and area where there is a lot of uncertainties. But one thing is for certain that those parallels do not accurately reflect or in many ways don't reflect the realities of Afghanistan, at all. Third point is the destructive role that the Taliban can play over the next few years. Now, if they wish to create and remain in insurgency and create fights and be a destructive force, they can over time it will wean out of power. But what they need to know for sure, is that they can't take power by force. They can start a civil war, but not come to power through that.
Other groups in the 1990s and beyond have tried to do that and I think the Taliban need to learn lessons from those groups also from their own conduct over the past 18 months. It's important that they think about these realities and think that they are a reality of Afghanistan. But that is the main point, our reality of Afghanistan, not the reality of Afghanistan, there are other groups who are equally are reality of the country, and they all have a place in the Democratic Republic. Everyone can be represented in the Republic and they can come together, and play a role in Afghanistan and create that united reality of the country. But to think that, on their own the Taliban will be able to force themselves on the Afghan people is unrealistic. Fourth point is the ANDSF combat capabilities. Since 2014, the Afghan security forces have been in charge and since the US Taliban agreement in February 2020, the Afghan security forces have been in the lead. 94% of their combat operations, offensive operations have been conducted by ANDSF on their own, independently, and that will continue. Like I said earlier, the areas of support that requires are already being said that will be committed, and we will work on the details with our allies on this. Fifth point is what both the ministers refer to is these, the role of the region and the neighbours and proxies. I think, in the last 18 months made one thing abundantly clear, it was all that had been said about support to the Taliban, from our neighbours, their visits to their bases, their visits to their injured soldiers, our fighters, rather. And there abundant discussions and had made it very clear all that was alleged to before. It was a reality, but it wasn't clearly seen has become a clear reality. Now, any further push would mean that there is direct involvement in Afghanistan by a neighbour, which could be very dangerous, the nationalistic forces in Afghanistan, are very upset and angry over this. And if this limit is passed, I think there would be huge problems for the said neighbour in their country by all Afghans who are there and from within Afghanistan, and there could be a huge blowback effect that could be destructive for these neighbours. So now, I think is an opportunity for both the Taliban to take this and for the said neighbour, and for the region to come together and support that Afghan led Afghan owned and Afghan controlled process.
Palki Sharma Upadhyay: I'm getting a lot of questions from the audience and since you mentioned a neighbour, let me take these two questions for Dr. Jaishankar. One is that does India have any intentions to open communications with the Taliban and does it even make sense as long as the Taliban are seen as Pakistani proxies. The second question is, how will India manoeuvre to facilitate a long term solution for Afghanistan, leading behind the bilateral differences with her neighbours?
Dr. S. Jaishankar: Look, what we will do and not do is not something obviously I'm going to discuss in public, not even at the Raisina dialogue. But this situation is evolving, and obviously everybody wants to have make the best contribution that they can and shape the outcomes in Afghanistan as positively as they can. So it's something which anybody responsible would consider and all aspects of that. Now, the bit about the bilateral difference, there I have an issue. Okay. Because I want you to just think back in the last 20 years, what is it we've actually done in Afghanistan? Because somehow, a narrative, I was watching yesterday, a programme which General McMaster the former American NSA was doing out of Stanford University. And he says something to the effect well, you know, there's a Pakistani fear that the Indians are on that side and there's an encirclement of Pakistan. So let me look at my actions. Okay. What do I plead guilty to? I plead guilty to bringing electricity to Kabul. I plead guilty to creating a dam near Herat and allowing agriculture, to creating a parliament in Kabul, to doing health clinics, radio stations, building roads networks. So, look at our record, because this is actually an absolute fantasy, that somewhere, our very presence and our activities out there are aimed at Pakistan. I think, frankly, it completely ignores the feeling that we have for the Afghan people. And it's a feeling which is rooted very deeply in our history and in our culture. So we've always had a very, very clear sense of what our agenda is out there. Our agenda has been a positive agenda, please look at the agenda and the outcomes of other people in other countries. I wish I could say the same of some of them. So we will do what in our view is good for Afghanistan, which is good for the development, prosperity, unity, integrity, democracy of Afghanistan. That's what we will do.
Palki Sharma Upadhyay: Javad Zarif your thoughts on the role of the neighbour that Dr. Mohib alluded to also there is another neighbour in the picture. And recently, Iran announced a $400 billion deal with China considering China's growing ties with Iran, and its close relationship with Pakistan as well. Do you see Beijing trying to take a more active role to determine the fate of Afghanistan? And where does that leave projects like the Chabahar port, which are also essential for the development of Afghanistan?
Mohammad Javad Zarif: Well, I think all of us have shared interests and shared threats in Afghanistan. And I think all of us need a stable Afghanistan, a peaceful Afghanistan. I think an Afghanistan in which terrorists have freedom to operate is a threat to Iran, a threat to India, a threat to Pakistan, a threat to China, a threat to Central Asia, a threat to Russia and a threat to the world. We've seen that in 2001, we've seen that in the murder of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, we've seen that terrorism knows no friend. Now we see the role of Daish. We don't know who's supporting Daish in Afghanistan of course, we have some circumstantial evidence about people behind the transfer of Daish from Iraq and Syria into Afghanistan. But be it as it may Daish is a threat to Afghanistan, to Iran, to Pakistan, to everybody. So we have common threats. We have common opportunities. Afghanistan is a mineral rich country. If we provide Afghanistan with transport and transit opportunities through Chabahar, through elsewhere, through the international markets, then what President Ghani has always called basically the unofficial economy in Afghanistan will go away. That economy is the economy that gives rise to drug trafficking, to human trafficking, to terrorism, to violence. And we need to put out that aside. Afghanistan has enough resources to build a viable official public economy that is not dependent on drugs or terrorism or other criminal activities that all these terrorist organisations are engaged in. And it seems to me from what the Taliban are saying that Daish is enemy number one for Taliban too. So there is something that unites us all. And that can be a road to the future of Afghanistan, and I believe, all of us need to put our differences aside and focus on commonalities. On commonalities I believe, Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan is an existential threat to Pakistan, whereas it's a national security threat to Iran and India. So here we have a similar area of common interest with our Pakistani friends. We have similarly common interests with our Tajik friends, our Uzbek friends who are threatened by these waves of extremism in their own countries. So there is something to bind us together and there is massive opportunity and I think China has the same opportunities, here we made it very clear to our Indian friends, to our Chinese friends, that chabahar is open for cooperation for everybody. Chabahar is not against China is not against Gwadar. Chabahar is a place where we can all come together in order to help Afghanistan, to help development and prosperity in the region. India is playing an active role in chabahar, Chinese are interested in playing an active role elsewhere in Iran and also in Chabahar. And there is enough for a lot of people to engage. And there is enough in Afghanistan to help promote peace and stability and economic development in the entire region.
Palki Sharma Upadhyay: Right and Dr. Jaishankar also spoke about the achievements in Afghanistan in the past 20 years. So let me start with you sir. And I would want all of you to share your views on this. Dr. Jaishankar, to your mind, which are the achievements in Afghanistan, which are the most important and precious in the past 20 years and the most necessary to preserve as we go forward?
Dr. S. Jaishankar: I think there are a lot of achievements. Part of that is really a sense that Afghanistan is a common enterprise of all its people, that there is acceptable basis by which decisions are made, representatives are selected, governance is done. And again, I'm not suggesting any of this is perfect. The fact that other ethnicities, communities, faiths are respected and given appropriate place, the fact of the rights of minorities, women, children, are taken care of, and again in all of this, there are the imperfections. So, the fact is, if I were to look at Afghanistan 2021, and compare it to say Afghanistan 2001, it can be nobody's case that it is not better. So there are definitely gains, there is been a lot of development as someone who's been there from time to time. I'm sure, Minister Zarif shares the same impression. We have seen the changes which have happened in the economy of Afghanistan, in Afghan society, in the aspirations and actually the achievements of its young people. I grant you we are at a crossroads today, there are tough decisions to be made. But let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. I think there are some very, very good things which have happened, which are important for the world to recognise, and which is important for the international community today to work to ensure that they remain very much at play.
Palki Sharma Upadhyay: Minister Zarif you spoke about the pluralism, the various ethnicities and their role that needs to be preserved. What else, what are their achievements over the past two decades do you think are the most important for Afghanistan to preserve, as we look at the future where the Taliban may have a political role?Mohammad Javad Zarif: Jaishankar basically enumerated them in a rather responsible way. I think there are serious problems but there are serious achievements. The Afghanistan of today, the role of civil society in Afghanistan today is not at all compatible to what it was in the 1990s and 2001. So it is just unthinkable for somebody to imagine that the Afghanistan could be brought back to the 1990s. That's just impossible. And we tell that to Taliban we have a very frank and open discussion with the Taliban and we tell them that this is the different society, different situation, of course Afghanistan has not been peaceful. There has been corruption, there has been drug trafficking, there has been a lot of terrorism in Afghanistan, and all of that are the negatives. But we cannot forget the positive and we cannot, as Dr. Jaishankar said, throw the baby out with the bathwater. We need to preserve what was achieved in Afghanistan, we cannot create a vacuum. Let me underline this, a vacuum does not help the people of Afghanistan. A vacuum only draws in fighting violence and a civil war. We need to have continuity; we need to correct the problems. And here let me underline the role of the United Nations, the United Nations is in the best place to basically moderate to provide what is going to happen. I do not think any power should aggregate this to themselves. It is the work of the international community. 2001 was successful, the Bonn conference was successful, because it was under the auspices of the United Nations. All of us helped. I was present in 2001 in Bonn, we all helped, but the Afghans controlled it and the United Nations guaranteed that the Afghans would control the process. And the United Nations guaranteed that it can pull all the resources together in order to be able to help the Afghans.
I remember, midnight meetings where the various Afghans groups had differences among themselves, but it was the United Nations who brought us all together, in order to help the Afghans reach a consensus. I think this needs to be done again, we need to preserve the achievements. And the most important achievements are the rights of minorities, the rights of women, the rights of the population, to set determination, the ethnic balance in the representation of the government, in Afghanistan, and the democratic institution. The president is elected by the people, this has to be the continuation of the process. We need to preserve these institutions. If we abandon these institutions, only violence can take their place.
Palki Sharma Upadhyay: I'm out of time, I would like to have this question with Hamdullah Mohib as well on what you think is the most precious and the most necessary achievement from Afghanistan to preserve? If you could give us a quick answer. Dr. Mohib, in maybe 30 seconds, we'd like to wrap the session after that.
Hamdullah Mohib: Democracy I think is what brings us all together. It provides an opportunity for that pluralistic society, it provides an opportunity for all the realities of Afghanistan to be present. You know, we have seen elections, where there have been contestation and those have been a reality of our country. We came together involved them, but there were methods and processes for it in the constitution and we could work our differences together. I am often asked about all the differences on all the different voices that are coming out of Afghanistan and my response always is that, that is the beauty and that's what we have been missing. We are talking to each other not shooting each other with bullets. So I think the fact that there is a platform where all different grievances can be aired without prosecution and without fear, and that we are able to talk about our differences and the shortcomings openly is what creates an atmosphere where any group can come and join. And we saw it with Hezb-e-Islami, they came in Mr. Hekmatyar, he is now part of the political society in Kabul. Now what he does we may disagree with but you know, he is part of that society now. So can the Taliban, I think they need to take this as an opportunity and look at it as a new chapter, do not connect it as Minister Zarif said to the 1990s, in 2001. That was a different Afghanistan. This is a new chapter for forces in and outside of Afghanistan. And that would be what my advice to all.
Palki Sharma Upadhyay: Great details and it is a new phase for Afghanistan, a new chapter, as you said in, all stakeholders will need a new playbook to deal with Afghanistan. Javad Zarif, S. Jaishankar, Hamdullah Mohib, thank you very much for being here in this session of the Raisina dialogue and for sharing your thoughts with us.
Javad Zarif: Thank you.
Hamdullah Mohib: Thank you.
Dr. S. Jaishankar: Thank you.
April 17, 2021