Geopolitics

Can the ‘Stateless Ambassadors’ be a Hope for Afghan People?
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 15 Jan , 2024

The world realises, that a terror free and a stable Afghanistan, due to its geo-strategic  importance, is a must to ensure peace and stability in the region and the world. In an effort to bring about and recognise an Afghan Government structured to meet the vital requirement, over two years have been spent. The need is to identify a legitimate entity based on the will of the people and to allow them to form a government which can be recognised. The fact that the Taliban led Afghanistan with a ‘cabinet of terrorists’ with Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of Haqqani Network leading the cabinet as the country’s interior minister has not been recognised till now reflects the breakdown of the efforts till now. The present processes to identify a legitimate Government in Afghanistan accordingly need new initiatives rather than diluting the essentials and reconciling to the fait accompli or reinforcing failure or even resigning to accept the unacceptable. 

It may be a good idea for a neutral country like Russia to organise a ‘Conclave of the Stateless Ambassadors’, appointed by the Ghani government who represent the people of Afghanistan rather than the present Government, along with a few selected prominent members of the civil society, to ascertain their views on a modus vivendi to establish the will of the people of Afghanistan within the constraints of the current prevailing situation, and to take it forward in launching a recognisable Afghan Government. May be even a “government in exile”! The ‘Stateless Ambassadors’ could then have a common approach in briefing the governments to which they are accredited to, to bring about consensus on establishing a recognisable legitimate government in Afghanistan.

The Conclave could also be utilised to ascertain the future needs of Afghanistan with a time frame, which may include, the country’s economic development, public services such as education including for women, higher education, technical training, health care, infrastructure, development of agriculture sector, needs of rural and backward areas, digitisation, development of communication network, industrial development and power needs, mining and other related issues. This will provide a fair idea of the requirement of finances for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

Uncertain Future

In the past two decades Afghanistan had made great inroads towards freedom and citizens’ rights, economic expansion, health and education improvement and against gender inequalities, human rights violations. These uptrends of the past had given the Afghan Ambassadors appointed by the elected Ghani government in various countries, the ambition to take up strengthened commitments, in attending to the crisis situations and problems of Afghan citizens.

The difficulties faced by the Afghan people since the Taliban toppled the democratic government in Afghanistan are yet to be seen as systematic fragilities by the countries of the world. It is in this context; the representatives of erstwhile Republic of Afghanistan will have to assume the leading role acting as a bridge builders in forming a legitimate government in Afghanistan based on the will of the people ascertained through means that are practical under the present situation in Afghanistan. The present stalemate cannot continue endlessly at the cost of sufferings of the citizens of the country.

Afghan Ambassadors represented the former republic government till Taliban seized power. Despite Taliban led Afghan government’s ambassadors not having been accepted in majority countries of the world, the existing Afghan Ambassadors around the world have responded to the Afghan people’s call within the constraints of not representing the terrorist led government in the parent country.

The Indian Scenario

Farid Mamundzay, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to India commenced his journey in March 2021 amid uncertainties created by rising geopolitical tensions in the region and the fierce subsequent waves of the COVID pandemic. Owing to the security situation in Afghanistan and conflicts that were brewing around the world, the future in Afghanistan and countries of the region and the world were unpredictable.

Aimed at a productive endeavour with a positive outlook, Ambassador Mamundzay offered potential milestones in supporting the war torn and poverty-stricken people of Afghanistan by developing projects to help the people of Afghanistan including those who were in India studying, trading or seeking medical help. His focus on relations with Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives, were also people oriented.

Bleaker Scenario

Underpinned by the values of the mission, Ambassador Farid Mamundzay initiated a ‘call to action’ to lead the charge at a time of infinite complex situation created by the second wave of COVID Pandemic in 2021-where people from all walks of life were badly impacted including the Afghan refugee community in New Delhi. The upheaval caused by the pandemic had added apocalyptic dimensions to the aggravated plight of about 5,000 Afghan refugee families living in Delhi. During this period, the Afghan Mission has consistently been at the forefront of emergency response accompanied by mobilizing support at local, community and government levels in Delhi through reinforced measures in the form of food, medical assistance, oxygen cylinders and other medical equipment for many of these refugees.

In the midst of all this, the hasty pullout of the US forces in August 2021, created a bleaker scenario for the significant and hard-won socio, political and economic gains in Afghanistan that slipped away as the Taliban took power by force.

The fall of Kabul on the eve of India’s Independence Day

“While attending India’s Independence Day celebrations at the historic Red Fort of Delhi on the morning of 15th August 2021 and listening to Prime Minister Modi’s 90-minute-long speech, time seemed to have been moving rather slow, as the unending distressing news of districts and cities fall to Taliban firmly glued me to my smart phone for updates on the only undefeated city of Kabul, which wasn’t far to be fallen by day’s end. In the midst of an exceedingly celebratory occasion, flower petals were showered over the enormous crowd present by the Indian Air force’s helicopters; unaware of the fact that days later desperate Afghan youth trying to escape their homeland would disastrously fall off from similar but larger military planes and from deadly altitude” echoed the sentiments of Ambassador Farid Mamundzay.

Before dawn, Ambassador Mamundzay became a “stateless ambassador” of the now “former Islamic Republic of Afghanistan”. The two decades old republic crumbled into pieces as a direct result of a failed peace process led by the U.S. and poor leadership on the part of Kabul’s political elites. With the abrupt collapse of the Republic, India too lost a strategic partner in Kabul, which would be difficult for Taliban to replace.

Shocking images from Kabul that August was not only fueling a sense of threat and insecurity in Afghanistan but it also shaped an atmosphere of dismay and uncertainty in the Afghanistan’s missions.

Being stateless is a dagger through the heart of democracy. A stateless diplomatic mission becomes a valueless entity, and business doesn’t remain as usual when the mission has no government to represent, no policy to implement and very little resources to support operational functions. It was under these circumstances that Ambassador Farid Mamundzay led the Embassy to fulfil the mission objectives that he had undertaken on assuming the leadership of the Afghan embassy.

Humanitarian Catastrophe

‘My country’s people matter a lot to me! We witnessed the humanitarian catastrophe worsening before our eyes. Ongoing conflict, draught and COVID pandemic were mounting this “avoidable” humanitarian crisis well before the fall of Kabul’, said Afghan Ambassador, Farid Mamundzay.

While the country suffered from acute food insecurity, hunger, malnutrition, violence against women, and violation of human rights; there was an increasing need to extend and expand humanitarian services. There was also warning of an impending economic collapse, aggravated by the already deteriorating financial crisis.

As soldiers without guns of a vanquished state, it would have been natural for the embassy to have lost hope but the Afghan embassy under Ambassador Mamundzay’s leadership confronted the crisis situation by way of resolute response guided by a heightened sense of responsibility, sharing and accountability, notably towards Afghan people. In an increasingly complex and challenging environment, the Afghan Mission in New Delhi responded emphatically to the crisis with actions aimed at continuing to serve Afghanistan, whose people and the landmass the mission represented despite the fall of the republic.

The Afghan Mission in New Delhi repositioned humanitarian aid assistance including food and medical supplies, delivery of COVID-vaccines and other relief materials to Afghanistan at the centre of the mission’s goals. Despite several failed attempts to facilitate the evacuation of vulnerable Afghans from Kabul to India, the Afghan mission led by Ambassador Farid Mamundzay contributed to ease one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises exacerbated by ongoing poor governance with constant human rights abuses. The rigid visa rules imposed by New Delhi after the collapse of Kabul are still largely in place. Around 2,500 Afghan students, who are enrolled at Indian universities, continue to wait for their visas in Afghanistan to return to India to pursue their studies.

The Embassy’s outreach to a number of diplomatic missions and organizations in the India led to securing some urgently needed supplies for Afghans during that period. The larger share of humanitarian assistance came from the Government of India followed by Malaysia and Nepal.

India’s response to dispatch wheat, medicines andCovid-19 vaccine on urgent basis continue, which has helped thousands of families across Afghanistan. Extension of students’ visas for nearly 7,000Afghans studying in 73 Universities all across India, relaxing the fumigation norms on agricultural products for trade purposes, and assisting the Afghan school in Delhi were some of the timely and praiseworthy initiatives by the Government of India. A weekly flight between Kabul and Delhi mostly for shipment of medical supplies resumed its operations after a gap of almost a year.

Over Two Year on from US Troops withdrawal

The crucial US troops’ withdrawal after the longest war in their history, was an acute moment that jolted Afghanistan’s roots with deadly attacks and human tragedies.

As per the reports on the situation, of human rights in Afghanistan was described thus: the human rights situation had deteriorated under Taliban’s authoritarian rule and Afghans are trapped in a human rights crisis that the world seemed powerless to address. Despite the adoption of a general amnesty and repeated assurances by the Taliban leaders, the rights of women and girls, targeting opponents and critics, and suppressing freedom of expression are still issues of great concern. Torture, ill-treatment, mass punishment, arbitrary detentions and forced displacement are occurring largely quietly across the country.

These increasing restrictive policies to limit civic space particularly by targeting women and girls are costing Taliban immensely, both politically and economically. Over the past two years, Taliban’s Emirates is still unrecognised by any country in the world.

Additionally, the economic crisis is perhaps the single most important issue in the country. The economy has shrunk by almost half since 2021 spurring mass migration and making the large youth and jobless population of the country more vulnerable to recruitment and radicalisation by extremist groups. Last year alone, according to UNHCR, some 683,000 people fled Afghanistan.

The humanitarian crisis is threatening to unleash an unprecedented wave of hunger and destitution, leaving social and economic chaos in its wake. Over 24 million Afghans need humanitarian relief and over 800,000 people are newly displaced within the country in 2021 alone.

The Taliban’s victory didn’t only propel Afghanistan from humanitarian crisis to catastrophe but completely went against their counter-terrorism commitmentsas agreed in the Doha agreement. Serious tensions are reportedly resurfacing among the top leadership within the group limiting their ability to deal with the pressing issues of governance, security and economic recovery. The presence of safe havens for terror groups like Al Qaeda, Jaish-e-Mohammed and others are issues of real concerns to the peace and stability of Afghanistan and the world. These links as recently confirmed by a UN report prove the fact that Taliban continued to have “symbiotic relationship” with transnational terrorist networks. Disturbingly, ISIS-K fighters continue to carry out deadly attacks on mosques, schools and public places across Afghanistan.

The absence of an inclusivegovernment with a legitimate and functioning state after experiencing democratic processes for two decades further emboldens authoritarianism among Taliban leaders. The interim Taliban government has made no steps towards an inclusive and accountable government leading to more politicalchaos and long-term security and stability unpredictability.

The region and the international community should press the Taliban with all available means including “measured sanctions” with minimum implications for ordinary Afghans in order to persuade them for the formation of an inclusive government suggested at important forums like the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and others from time to time. A similar declaration was issued by several Afghan political leaders. Preserving and strengthening security and stability in the region requires an urgent settlement of the situation in Afghanistan. The international community together with the region should work with Afghans to establish as an independent, united, democratic, pluralistic and peaceful state, free of terrorism, war and narcotics. The pursuit of realpolitik by major countries at the expense of democratic, moral and human rights values would prove to be disastrous in the long-term.  The larger question is, if Taliban establishes an inclusive Government will they become legitimate?

It is clear that the former representatives of the Republic of Afghanistan are dynamic and are capable of addressing ever more complex issues both in their parent and host countries and their operations around the world. Considering their dedication to the people of Afghanistan, the stateless ambassadors, representatives and civil society members of Afghanistan should be called upon by the international community for seeking their views, advices and engage with them to form a legitimate government in Afghanistan.

The way forward

The Indian scenario describes the vision and the ingenuity of the Afghan Ambassador, Farid Mamundzay, in working his way through to support Afghans in their homeland and those in need of help in India, despite the constraints that were thrust on him. The situation couldn’t have been different in the other countries of the world.

The ‘Stateless Ambassadors’ being Afghan nationals, with varied experience both in their own countries and in countries around the world, besides having had the opportunity to interact with grass root level individuals, politicians and diplomats of other countries with different forms of governments would perhaps be able to make very appropriate contributions to work out a modus operandi for identifying the will of the Afghan people and allowing an inclusive government of their choice to be formed, consisting of well-intentioned people irrespective of their religion, sect, gender or  past affiliations. The loyalty of these ‘Stateless Ambassadors’ to the people of Afghanistan would be a great asset in this endeavour.

The people of Afghanistan had suffered over three decades of fighting, bloodshed and destruction arising out of big power rivalry. Generations of people have experienced nothing other than sufferings. It is time the people had a government that sought to serve their interests, rather than that of big powers aspiring to increase their own wealth and influence in the world through the blood and sufferings of the Afghan people. Afghanistan today needs a government with no affiliations to any country but with a vision to develop Afghanistan and upgrade the living standards of its people. The government selected by the people should view its geographical location as a hub to connect the countries of the world to facilitate trade and interaction and not as a base for launching military operations against any country. The natural resources of the country need to be seen as wealth creators and a means for global inventions and manufacturing.

Having remained in Afghanistan with total control of the country, US had the opportunity to facilitate the Afghan people to set up a government of their choice. Unfortunately, that opening was frittered away by concluding an agreement with a terror group that the US has sought to destroy without even including the then ruling elected government or some prominent citizens of the country in the talks. The agreement made by the US Government with the terror group has not been fully made public till today. As a result, Afghanistan and the world are today struck with a situation where the people’s will is difficult to ascertain and a government with a ‘terrorist cabinet’ has been formed by the entity which was allowed to take control of the country. The risks that were emanating from Afghanistan continue to remain with no respite to anxiety gripping the entire world.

The world now has a chance to model Afghanistan as a neutral country seeking development rather than facilitating conflicts. If this opportunity is lost by diluting the need for ascertaining the will of the people by accepting promises of an inclusive government or some modified version of power sharing or education to the women, the countries of the world, both regional and the others will only be spending money and constantly working to prevent terror attacks in their countries.

The choice is ours.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Neelapu Shanti

is a New Delhi based International Affairs, Researcher, Writer, Journalist and an Indo-Afghan Analyst. MA in International Relations and Post Graduate in Journalism.

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One thought on “Can the ‘Stateless Ambassadors’ be a Hope for Afghan People?

  1. An excellent article suggesting a fresh initiative to resolve the present Afghan imbroglio to bring about permanent peace in the region & the world, without compromising on the security needs or by willy-nilly providing a base for terror groups to operate from.

    A must read article, especially for Russia’s Foreign Office & for those involved in finding a way to ascertain the will of the people, paving the way for recognition of the country. The introductory paragraphs & the portions under ‘The Way Forward’ provides the crux.

    The larger aim is to end the sufferings of the people by preventing Afghanistan becoming a terror base to meet the geopolitical ambitions of big powers.

    Compliments to the author.

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