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Reports on Conference/Seminars

Name of Event:

  Conference on     on
"Rethinking International Intervention in Afghanistan"

  January 6-7, 2011

  Sapru House, New Delhi

ICWA and MAKAIAS conducted a two day conference on 'Rethinking International Intervention in Afghanistan'. The keynote address was delivered by former Ambassador Jayant Prasad. He detailed the measures taken by India to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan, which he described as the greatest security challenge of the times. For the purposes of the conference, the intervention in Afghanistan that was to be debated, was to begin with 9/11 and the subsequent US and NATO military intervention in the country. The conference had presentations from Afghanistan, Russia, Central Asia and India. At various stages the absence of Iranian and Pakistani delegates was noted. The conference attempted to re-construct the history of the region from which one could draw possible scenarios about the possible global, regional and local futures. Security and the military solutions, though important were not the main issues that would shape the emerging scenarios. The role that the socio-political dynamics would play in the long term future were emphasized on.

The focus of the conference can briefly be divided into three parts. The first was on the intervention that Afghanistan had been going through since 9/11 and the issue of stability that would take in the immediate and long term future. From tracing the history of interventionism in Afghanistan, to the implications of the UN mandated military intervention, the legality of the issue, the subsequent violation of sovereignty, and the loss of human rights that the country suffered as a result, the conference attempted to draw various scenarios in case the Western forces withdrew from Afghanistan. This included critiquing the US policy in the region, and the implications of the Af-Pak policy that the Obama administration is seeking to implement by withdrawing its forces and leaving administration in the hands of the Afghan administration.

The second focus of the conference was on the dynamics within Afghanistan. In continuation of the debates on the proposed exit policy of Europe and the US from Afghanistan, the participants pointed out to the faulty manner in which society and polity were developing in Afghanistan. A major point of concern was that the economy did not have strong grounding and was largely dependent on aid for survival. There is rampant corruption within the government structures and at the level of international management, as a result of which the billions of dollars sanctioned for Afghans do not reach the masses. A large part of the funds manage to find their way back to the West. The violations of human rights and the inability of the military forces to counter the ideological appeal of the non-state actors, was strongly debated.

The third focus of the conference was on the regional dynamics in the stabilization efforts of Afghanistan and India's role in the re-construction of the country. According to the participants, if the US and NATO choose to scale down their engagement in Afghanistan, there would be three possible scenarios: a) an outright victory for Taliban, that would mean the exit of the Karzai government giving Pakistan a leverage in manipulating the socio-political flux; b) a prolonged and protracted civil war; and c) a coalition of six/seven-parties stabilizing Afghanistan over a reasonably long period of time. The parties to such a negotiated settlement would have to be the US, Russia, China, India, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Central Asian republics too also have a large stake in such a settlement. From being a battleground of super powers, the situation threatened to snowballing into the war zone of regional powers, a scenario that should be prevented at all costs. If the UN Security Council members put Afghanistan on the backburner, the regional powers would be able to have a free reign, and the region as a whole would suffer.

A large part of the conference debated on the shifting of the classification of the problem that Afghanistan faced. From being the hub of global terrorists, due to which it was the centre for the war on terror, the semantics had changed to describing the situation in 2007 as an insurgency problem within Afghanistan, that is having a spillover effect in Pakistan and would have a destabilizing effect in South, West and Central Asia. A military solution or a solution using the coercive apparatus, it was felt would only postpone the chaos from spreading.

In conclusion, it was felt that perhaps time has come for the international community to look at the option of negotiated settlement involving countries mentioned above. Stabilization of Afghanistan needed an Afghan solution. It was imperative that along with issues of military stabilization that the issue of education, mal-nourishment, poverty, unemployment and development also be addressed. Peace should not be placed over justice for Afghanistan. Not addressing issues would strengthen the Taliban and other non-state actors that could be formed of the mis-guided youth.

Report by:        Nihar Ranjan Das & Rushda Siddiqui, Research Fellow, Indian Council of World Affairs