The Afghanistan Studies Centre, Academy of International Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia organized a talk on “Regional Security for Afghanistan: The Implications of Overlapping Regions” by Dr. Sandra Destradi, a Research Fellow at GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Hamburg, Germany. Chaired by Prof. Rani D. Mullen, a Fulbright-Nehru Senior Scholar, the talk was held on Monday, 25th November 2013 at the Academy of International Studies .
Delivering the talk, Dr Destradi said that uncertainties remain about what will happen in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) combat troops by the end of 2014.
Drawing heavily from her ongoing research project on Afghanistan in which she deals with the complications of the implications of regional powers’ overlapping interests in Afghanistan, Dr Destradi argued that the overlap which has intensified in Afghanistan since 2001 has led to focus on security dilemma by different regions of South Asia, Central Asia, Middle East and partially East Asia through the influence of China.
The order that we see in this notion of overlap is a “competing process” where we have “war as an option” said Destradi. One of the implications of this overlap is generation of “conflicting interests” which raises the issue of Balance of Power, she said adding that a zero-sum game approach is how this Balance of Power is played out in Afghanistan where in the case of Central Asia, Pakistan views India as a security threat while there are tensions in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and other Central Asian states. From the Middle East (read West Asia) Iran supports Shiite Hazara minority and Persian-speaking groups, especially the Tajiks whereas Saudi Arabia is close to the Taliban.
She further said that while East Asia doesn’t directly play into this, China’s march westwards partially is a reaction to the US Pivot to Asia.
The main overlap in Afghanistan is of three regions with the Balance of Power security order in different intensity in which they are placed like a) Iran-India, generating fears; b) Iran-Pakistan, simmering tensions, with the former being suspicious of the latter’s relations with the US and Saudi Arabia and; c) Iran-Tajikistan-Afghanistan due to what Destradi called the “Persian alliance”.
There are implications of this overlap for the domestic politics of Afghanistan, said she adding that her effort would be to “analytically disentangle complexities of regional engagement” in Afghanistan.
Speaking on this occasion Zalmai Wafamal, Political Counselor at the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in New Delhi said that things have changed for better. That thousands of students are going to US, Germany and India is very “optimistic” for us. A large number of 10.5 million students go to schools around 40 percent of whom are girls, whereas it was zero percent girls in the 1990’s. Out of 30 million population, 18 million now use mobile phones.
Our optimism is based on strong reasons, Wafamal said. We have a very strong parliament where nine different ideologies confront each other and resolve their problems. He said that the (Afghan) National Security Forces are now very well trained and fairly equipped.
About external intervention, the Counselor said that Afghanistan did not want intervention. Peace process should be “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned”.
Afghanistan needs and wants to “change from an aid country to a trade country”, he said adding that Afghanistan had a very soft corner for India, the aid from where is “demand-driven and not supply-driven”.
The lecture was organized as part of a series of activities for an ongoing six-week long seminar course on State Rebuilding in Afghanistan. Earlier, on 21 November, 2013, the Centre organized a lecture on Health and Education in Afghanistan by Dr. Ghulam Dastagir Sayed, an Afghan national working for the World Bank in Kabul. Prior to that, some movies were also screened.
Prof. Shri Prakash, Prof. Ajay Darshan Behera, Dr Mathew Joseph, Dr K. N. Tennyson, Dr Angira Sen Sarma, representatives from the Embassy of Afghanistan and China, faculty members and students were present and many of them took part in the post-talk long discussion.