“Today, I believe, is a good day for Afghanistan, and for the people of Afghanistan”, Deborah Lyons, Head of the UN Assistance Mission for Afghanistan (UNAMA), told a news conference. She said the world had come together to give an emphatic message to the people of Afghanistan. “What is the message? We stand with you.” Even the UN Secretary General tweeted in favor of Afghanistan.
Violence has continued in Afghanistan despite peace talks that began in September. Twin explosions in the central Afghan city of Bamiyan, which has beautiful Buddha temples on Tuesday killed at least 14 people, injuring 45 or more. According to a press release from UNAMA, donors pledged at least US$ 3.3 billion for the first year of the upcoming four year period, “with annual commitments expected to stay at the same level year-on-year.”
But the money was not free, Ms. Lyons said: donors expected it would be well spent and the Government would be held accountable for how it was distributed, with an expectation that the country would hold on to the gains made in the past and keep strengthening institutions of governance and the protection of human rights.
Finnish Minister of Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto, whose Government co – hosted the event together with Afghanistan and the United Nations, said 66 Governments and more than 30 international organisations had taken part in the conference, mostly online, because of COVID-19. “All eyes in Afghanistan are towards Geneva”, said Afghan Deputy Minister of Finance Abdul Habib Zadran. “They are expecting a lot from the international community.”
Earlier, UN SG António Guterres addressed the conference in a video message, saying the Afghan people had suffered for far too long, and Afghan women had paid a high price in the conflict, many suffering extreme violence and the loss of homes, loved ones and communities.
It was absolutely essential that women played a meaningful and equal role in determining the outcome of the peace process. He called for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire to save lives and prevent the further spread of COVID-19 in the country.
“Progress toward peace will contribute to the development of the entire region and is a vital step towards the safe, orderly and dignified return of millions of displaced Afghans. The United Nations stands with the people of Afghanistan on the path toward peace, development and self-reliance.” Mr. Guterres’ remarks were followed by a keynote speech from Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, delivered via video link.
Speaking via video – link, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani told the conference that his government faced the challenges of corruption, the pandemic, poverty, uncertainty and insecurity, and he also wanted an immediate ceasefire. “What is the main priority of the Afghan people? A demand for peace.
Today, we the Afghan people, government, and international community, share a vision of a sovereign, unified, democratic Afghanistan at peace with itself, the region and the world, capable of preserving and expanding the gains of the past two decades.”
India called for an immediate and a comprehensive ceasefire, it announced new development initiatives for Afghanistan. These initiatives include a dam to supply water to Kabul and around 150 community projects for US$ 80 million. “India is committed to a long-term role for the development of Afghanistan,” the EAM S Jaishankar said at a virtual international pledging conference.
While highlighting that today no part of Afghanistan is untouched by the 400 plus projects that have been undertaken in all 34 of the Afghanistan’s provinces, the minister stated that India’s development portfolio in Afghanistan has to-date amounted to over US$ 3 billion. According to him, 65,000 Afghan students have also studied in India.
What are the other projects India is doing in Afghanistan?
India has an agreement with Afghanistan for building Shahtoot Dam in the Kabul river basin. This will provide drinking water to two million residents of Kabul city. According to the EAM, this dam will be built on the 202-km Pul-e-Khumri electricity transmission line. This line was built in 2009 to provide power to the city.
Under the Phase IV of its high impact community, development projects initiative focused on smaller project for villages and districts, India has plans to launch some 150 projects worth US$ 80 million.
Expressing concern over the increasing level of violence and calling for an immediate ceasefire, the Minister said “ India will support all efforts to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan, and we also believe the peace process must be Afghan – led, Afghan – owned and Afghan – controlled.” India is consistently following this policy. Adding, “The interests of minorities, women and other vulnerable sections must be ensured and the gains of the last two decades must be preserved.”
Development aid for Afghanistan was of five types including large infrastructure projects like the 218-km Delaram-Zaranj road. This road provides alternative connectivity through Iran.
The India-Afghanistan friendship dam.
The Parliament building, high impact community projects, humanitarian assistance, human resource development.
Enhancing trade and investment through land and air connectivity.
Around 65,000 students have studied in India under scholarship programmes. 15,000 students are currently in India.
According to the minister 3,000 scholarships have been provided to Afghan women for higher studies.
Vocational education is being provided to an increasing number of women in Afghanistan.
The growth of the landlocked country has been affected by its geography. Alternative connectivity has been provided by India developed in Iran. This was the route used during the COVID-19 pandemic to transport 75,000 tonnes of wheat. And, also, more than 20 tonnes of medicines and equipment.
The two days (Nov 23-24) 2020 Afghanistan Conference is being co-hosted in Geneva by the Governments of Afghanistan and Finland with the UN. During the conference, besides the financial support, a joint political declaration, a new development framework, and a new aid architecture for Afghanistan’s development needs is expected to be drawn.
While the European Union for the next four years has pledged US$ 1.2 Billion to Afghanistan, ministers from several countries including Canada has called on the Taliban to declare ceasefire. President Ashraf Ghani in his keynote speech thanked India for its commitment of over US$ 2 Billion and also both India and Iran for the Chabahar corridor in related sea corridor as well as the air corridor.
The visit comes at a crucial time for Afghanistan as Kabul government negotiators and the Taliban are holding US – brokered negotiations in Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office, to chart a course for a post – war Afghanistan. “You come with a series of very important messages … but fundamental to this is that violence is not an answer, a comprehensive political settlement for an enduring peace within the framework of our values, our Constitution in the Islamic Republic is the way to the future,” Ghani told Khan at the presidential palace.
There is some fallout of the AfPak peace talk since Trump will not be inaugurated again on 21st January 2021 but India’s commitment to this rentier state is firm like ‘Angad ka pair.’ अंगद का पैर.