Sunday, April 6, 2014

Meanwhile in Afghanistan

With all the excitement over the Lok Sabha elections in India, due to start on Monday and stretch on for five days, it is easy to forget that another substantial election in South Asia also took place last week. Afghanistan started its elections to elect a new President as Hamid Karzai's second and final term comes to an end just before NATO withdraws the last of its fighting force from the country. The Taliban has been making every effort to disrupt the vote but it is heartening to note that, on the ground, there is strong support for democracy.

Afghanistan's Presidential election will certainly be a major component of the future of all of South Asia. IT is not a question of who becomes President - all the candidates will face the same challenges and their response will also be quite similar in any case - but how much support the entire process sees, particularly in the southern provinces that are Taliban strongholds. With NATO withdrawing, it is quite obvious that there is no military solution to the Afghan problem - if there was, then the world's biggest war machine would've used it. The only solution is a political one and for that, it is important for the new president to enjoy the support of diverse tribal groups in Afghanistan including the Pashtuns.

For India, having a warm relationship with the next administration will be imperative - India's security depends on it and even more than that, we owe it to the people of Afghanistan, as South Asia's regional superpower, to support them in their time of need. Afghanistan is the hope for a unified South Asia, with all countries joining hands. If Afghanistan falls, the entire idea behind SAARC falls. From a regional perspective, it is the most important piece on the table.

As India and Afghanistan both prepare to enter a new phase of their histories, their people look forward to s safe, stable and strong Afghanistan, free of all foreign influence. 

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