India’s initiatives through SCO is setting a regional security architecture for Afghanistan and with this policy, India is making efforts to forge substantive links, engage in deeper economic and political integration and foster people-to-people contact, writes Neelapu Shanti, a journalist formerly associated with the Government of Afghanistan.
India and Afghanistan share an exceptional long friendship that once again reflected during the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit-2019 (SCO) held in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said, “A united, peaceful, safe and prosperous Afghanistan is an important factor for the stability and security in the SCO region. Our aim is to support the efforts of the government and the people of Afghanistan for an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled inclusive peace process”, spells India’s diplomacy to raise Afghanistan’s issue with all the regional countries and wants the war-torn country to be an active part of the regional infrastructure development initiatives.
India’s initiatives through SCO is setting a regional security architecture for Afghanistan and with this policy, India is making efforts to forge substantive links, engage in deeper economic and political integration and foster people-to-people contact. Afghanistan has been receiving enormous support for the activation of the roadmap for further action of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group.
The SCO’s primary objective is to combat religious extremism, separatism and extremism in the region and in context to Afghanistan it is important to understand the role of SCO and the measures for cooperation between SCO and Afghanistan. To counter the challenges of extremism in Afghanistan is the main reason for the establishment of SCO.
Determined to ensure regional security and stability the SCO member states are forging strong collaborations. “In this context, they support the work of the government and people of Afghanistan (with support from the international community) for restoring peace and ensuring the countries sustained development. The SCO Member States once again express their willingness to facilitate a political settlement under the guidance of the people of Afghanistan and with their involvement on a bilateral basis and within the framework of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group”.
India-SCO support in Afghanistan
The members of SCO focussed on to implement on expanding and deepening cooperation in trade, finance, investment, transport, energy, agriculture, innovation, cutting-edge technology, etc. Modi elucidated India’s cooperation through HEALTH template that explains as H for Healthcare Co, T for Terrorism free society, H for Humanitarian Cooperation, and H for Healthcare cooperation. With regard to India’s cooperation with Afghanistan is represented by its effort and contribution via humanitarian and development assistance. Time and again India has conveyed its willingness to work closely with the SCO memberstates in efforts to bring peace, prosperity and, stability in Afghanistan. On sidelines of the SCO summit, Modi assured President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani that India will support for a “legitimate government is chosen through the democratic process”.
While focusing oneffective connectivity of Afghanistan, Chabahar port project and Air Corridor programme are indeed signature achievements of India which has been purposeful and productive. India’s cooperation with Afghanistan has made steady headway as the scope of cooperation has been broadening and the levels are increasing. In this backdrop, multilateral organisation like SCO is an important bloc to demonstrate solidarity aimed at mutual benefit and common development in the region. India-Afghanistan has made notable progress in building people-to people contact and the partnership is based on the amalgam of development and Strategic Partnership Agreement of 2011. The agenda is spelled out through education and skills enhancement, infrastructure development, information technology, scholarship programmes, healthcare etc.
In May this year India has provided Mi-24V helicopter gunships from Belarus to the Afghan Air Force (AAF) at an air base in Kabul. The Shahtoot Dam project funded by World Bank and proposed to be constructed by India is in the pipeline. Once initiated would enhance water supply facilities, purification system and the dam will provide potable water to more than two million people in Kabul. India’s long experience in implementing projects and trading in Afghanistan has turned out to be realistic. The volume of trade between the two countries has sporadically crossed over the USD 900 million in 2018-19. India has created a lot of investment opportunities in Afghanistan, particularly the emerging sectors of mining, infrastructure, telecommunications, agro-based and small scale industries, health, pharmaceuticals, education and IT.
Role of SCO member states in Afghanistan
In the context to Afghanistan, SCO aims to respond to the immediate threats arising from terrorism and drug trafficking and the idea emerged from a collective demand from the regional countries to combat them. The SCO’s relevance will be determined by its ability to effectively address the economic and security problems of the regional countries including Afghanistan. The international community needs to strengthen the Afghan state. It is important to forge a diplomatic regional consensus in support of long term stabilisation in Afghanistan.
The SCO comprises eight member states, namely India, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyz, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The SCO counts four observer states, namely the Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran, and Mongolia. The SCO has six dialogue partners, namely the Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Nepal, Turkey and Sri Lanka.
India has been playing a crucial role and envisions strengthen healthy cooperation in the region. India offers limitless opportunities and in sync with the priorities of the regional countries including Afghanistan as a top priority in the SCO. To promote greater understanding of the SCO like platform it is important to take forward the spirit of consultation that will be a resource bank for furthering healthy relations in the region.