Sunday, 19 September, 2021

China to play most important role in Afghanistan

China to play most important role in Afghanistan

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Former foreign secretary Shahidul Haque has said although India, Iran and Pakistan are in the race for influence in Afghanistan, China has the most important role to play to fill the void left by the withdrawal of NATO and US forces.

He also said the National Afghan government has shown its interest to become a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and it will be interesting to see how it turns out as both India and Pakistan are SCO members.

"To bring peace and security in Afghanistan, the governance of Afghanistan should be done by the people of this country without any interference of outsiders," said Haque, now a professorial fellow of SIPG at NSU, while addressing a webinar.

The webinar titled "Current Afghan Situation and Bangladesh" was organized by the South Asian Institute of Policy and Governance (SIPG) of North South University (NSU) to understand the current situation from academic and geopolitical lenses as the emerging unrest and power shifting in Afghanistan will have consequences in the entire South Asia region. 

Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen spoke at the webinar as the chief guest.

"We are holding several meetings with Taliban to understand which one of the existing Islamic models they want to implement but they are adamant to implement their model to run Afghanistan and that’s a major issue of the present conflict," said Dr M Mustafa Mastoor, special representative and senior advisor, High Council for National Reconciliation of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

Joining live from Kabul, he also said the recent diplomatic efforts of Bangladesh on Afghanistan issues are not as strong as they were before and hopes it will improve in the future. 

Masud Momen said Bangladesh welcomes the Afghan people's own right to build a democratic, pluralistic, and inclusive society through recent peace talks.

Bangladesh insists on becoming a development partner and assists Afghanistan in all bilateral cooperation for mutual benefits, he said.

"And as soon as the situation becomes conducive, Bangladesh will reopen the embassy in Kabul," said the foreign secretary. 

Keynote speaker of the webinar Brig Gen M Sakhawat Hussain (retd), senior fellow of SIPG at NSU, discussed the geopolitics and consequences of the current Afghan Crisis in the South Asian region and Bangladesh.

He stated that a continuation of the Afghan internal conflicts will have a spillover effect in the region as seen in the past which may jeopardize the external and internal security of this region.

He also opined that Bangladesh, having historical ties with Afghanistan should consider improving ties with Central Asia including Afghanistan. 

Dr Lailufar Yasmin, professor of International Relations at the University of Dhaka, pointed towards placing importance on both hard and soft power objectives.

"We need to analyze the long-term impacts of the fact that the Taliban is trying to win the hearts of the mass public by lowering the oil price and the amount of Mahr (money paid by the groom at the time of Islamic marriage)," she said.

Faruque Ahmed, former executive director of Brac International who worked in the humanitarian and development sector in Afghanistan, stated that security is a big challenge there along with weak governance and the high cost of doing business.

He also opined that security should be ensured first for peacebuilding and development in Afghanistan. 

Professor Atiqul Islam, vice-chancellor of North South University chaired the session.

In his concluding remarks, he said that although the re-emergence of the Taliban may represent an initial strategic gain for Pakistan, the country is also at high risk of much chaos, civil war, and the influx of refugees from Afghanistan if another civil war starts there.

He also said India has good reasons to be nervous as China will be keeping a sharp eye on Afghanistan as well. "China has already met with the Taliban leaders as they don't want their interference in Xinxiang and BRI projects."

The event ended with the playing of an Afghan folk song as a tribute to the fellow Afghans wishing peace and prosperity in their lives.

Diplomats, academics from various universities including NSU and Dhaka University, journalists, and students from the USA, Norway, New Zealand, Bangkok, Italy, UK, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh were present among the participants.