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Regional Cooperation Inducing Transformation in Afghanistan

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Dr Shaida Mohammad Abdali

Through mutual cooperation and deep understanding with India and other regional countries, Afghanistan can achieve its goals of bringing transformation in governance, urban infrastructure development and banking sector, says Dr Shaida Mohammad Abdali, Ambassador of Afghanistan to India, in an exclusive interview with Souvik Goswami of Elets News Network (ENN).

“Today in a population of around 30 million, we have 20 million mobile users in Afghanistan. Apart from the rapid growth in mobile telephony, the public as well as the private sector in Afghanistan have been using ICTs in increasingly sophisticated ways.”

Afghanistan and India have shared a friendly relationship for long, what is the significance of India’s role for Afghanistan?

India has shared close ties with Afghanistan for decades. India’s contribution in rebuilding the country is immensely appreciated and acknowledged by the Afghans, as India is the fifth largest bilateral donor to Afghanistan in the world. India is focused on building institutional capacity and providing human resource assistance to Afghanistan by offering 1,000 scholarships annually to Afghan students in various disciplines and rebuilding infrastructure of the country. Afghanistan is seeking support from regional countries, including India, to ensure a successful Afghan reconstruction effort.

What kind of collaborations Afghanistan is seeking from India to effect its socio-economic cultural transformation?

The socio-economic development is crucial to any country as it improves the quality of lives and leads to individuals and society at large, reaping many social benefits. Education is the yardstick to measure progress and prosperity, and serves as a pillar of strength for any nation. The socio-economic and cultural transformation of Afghanistan looks to bring in a quality education, women empowerment, health, hygiene and sanitation, infrastructure development. This will herald a new era for the people of our country.

What do you think about industry participation, considering it is essential for bringing transformation in governance, urban infrastructure and the banking sector?

Through mutual cooperation and deep understanding with India and other regional countries, Afghanistan can achieve its goals of bringing transformation in governance, urban infrastructure development and the banking sector. The Government of Afghanistan and the international community need to focus on agricultural and rural development, electricity, water, power supply, roads and transportation facilities, sanitation and disease control, local farm and non-farm industries, and extraction of natural resources. Implementing such policies will create markets for domestic agricultural goods, which, on one hand, will be plentiful and, on the other hand, will be cheaper than what is available presently. Strong and large domestic agriculture markets will result in rise of income of farmers. It will also develop and increase manufacturing while enabling the processing industries to purchase raw material in large quantities and at profitable prices. This will help the economic cycle to start moving in a positive direction.

How Afghanistan is ensuring a peaceful and stable atmosphere that is conducive for large scale investments?

The Government of Afghanistan is fully determined to take initiatives for peace and aims to engage the region and the world to address the multiple dimensions of the ongoing violence in the country. The search for peace and security in Afghanistan includes multiple interlinked dimensions – in the government, Afghan society, armed groups, regional neighbours and involved actors from around the globe. More importantly, the SAARC nations (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan,Sri Lanka and the Maldives ) need to take concrete steps to establish peace in the region.

“The socio-economic and cultural transformation of Afghanistan looks to bring in quality education, health, hygiene and infrastructural development.”

How do you perceive the use of ICT for good governance?

The Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) will definitely play a key role in the economic growth processes of political, cultural, socioeconomic, behavioural and development. In the early 2000s, there was less use of ICT technology. In 2001, Afghanistan had only 20,000 operational telephones, which were only available in Kabul. People had to travel long distances to make international telephone calls. At present, the development is showing positive trends. Today, in a population of around 30 million, we have 20 million mobile users in Afghanistan. Apart from the rapid growth in mobile telephony, the public as well as the private sector in Afghanistan have been using ICTs in increasingly sophisticated ways. This change over the past 10 years has provided Afghans access to information, financial and transactional services, and more importantly to new markets. The Government, with the support of World Bank and the USAID, has initiated a number of programmes to expand electronic and mobile government services to its citizens. Private businesses have begun to offer services such as money transfer and bill payments, agricultural market price information and health information services using the mobile networks and devices.

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