Indian, Afghan foreign ministers meet to bolster ties

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj (R) shakes hands with Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani (L) prior to a meeting in New Delhi on Monday. (AFP)
Updated 13 September 2017
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Indian, Afghan foreign ministers meet to bolster ties

NEW DELHI: On Monday, the foreign ministers of India and Afghanistan held a Strategic Partnership Council meeting in New Delhi.
This second meeting, coming six years after the first, is significant in the wake of the new US policy on Afghanistan and South Asia announced by President Donald Trump three weeks ago.
Trump lauded India’s efforts in Afghanistan and urged New Delhi to “help” more in stabilizing the war-torn country.
“We agreed jointly to embark on a new development partnership in keeping with the priorities of Afghanistan,” said Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj after talks with her Afghan counterpart.
She added that “116 new high-impact development projects will be jointly implemented, which will bring socioeconomic development, especially in suburban and rural communities in 31 provinces of Afghanistan.”
Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani emphasized New Delhi’s role in stabilizing his country.
“Current regional trends bring Afghanistan and India closer than ever in order to protect and achieve social, economic and political security and trade interests,” said Rabbani at a joint press conference.
“Both countries suffer from terrorism and violent extremism that threaten us and regional stability. Terrorists groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed have been launching indiscriminate attacks and killing civilians. They, along with the Taliban, Daesh and Al-Qaeda, have engaged in similar terrorist activities that have killed many Afghans.”
Since 2001, India has been engaged in largescale civilian reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, and is one of its five major donors, pledging $2 billion in investment.
The Afghan Parliament building, the Delaram-Zaranj Highway, the Salma Dam in Herat and the Afghan National Agricultural Sciences and Technology University are some of the major projects backed by India.
These are in addition to training and capacity-building for the Afghan Army, and providing hundreds of scholarships to Afghan students every year. New Delhi also recently supplied four military helicopters.
In light of Trump’s latest policy statement on the region, Indian commentators say New Delhi is seeking to redefine its role in Afghanistan.
“In Afghanistan, Delhi is entering a very different domain,” wrote C. Raja Mohan, director of Carnegie India.
“The lack of geographic access has always reinforced independent India’s tentativeness in Afghanistan. The NDA (National Democratic Alliance) government, led by Narendra Modi, seems open to testing the limits of that geographic constraint.”
M.K. Bhadrakumar, a former Indian diplomat, wrote: “India is graduating as a veritable ally of the US.”
He added: “It is within the realm of possibility that India may allow the US and NATO to use its military bases for the war effort in Afghanistan, which would end US dependence on Pakistan.”
Rabbani hinted at New Delhi’s expanding role in Afghanistan, telling The Hindu daily: “We also hope that India, as a good friend of other countries in the region, such as Russia and Iran, can convince them to work with the Afghan government in support of the peace process in Afghanistan.”
But academic Angira Sen Sarma said the “centrality of Pakistan” to Afghanistan cannot be dismissed.
“India won’t get into any kind of military alliance in Afghanistan. It should, however, continue its civilian assistance,” Sarma, who teaches in New Delhi at the Jamia Millia Islamia University, told Arab News.


No easy path: Complex mass migration, politics reshape globe

The international community must work with shared and long-term political choices to manage a phenomenon that involves the entire world. (AP)
Updated 20 June 2018
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No easy path: Complex mass migration, politics reshape globe

  • In Europe, leaders of European Union member countries are trying anew to come up with continent-wide solutions to a mass migration crisis that has pitted nations and politicians against each other
  • The interior minister in Italy's new populist government, Matteo Salvini, refused a port of entry this month to a rescue boat operated by two aid groups that carried 630 people who were picked up while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea from Libya

PARIS: Lined up before dawn, dozens of migrants outside a government office in Italy jostled to be one of the handful allowed inside to request asylum Wednesday.
The journeys that brought them to Rome and the sleepless nights wondering if they would be allowed to stay was being repeated in cities and countries around the world on World Refugee Day as millions of people sought to flee persecution, violence, war and poverty.
The Rohingya Muslims forced out of Myanmar to Bangladesh; teenagers from Mexico and Central America seeking safety in the United States; Syria's war refugees; men from South Sudan and Nigeria crossing the Mediterranean Sea to feed their families — they are among the human wave roiling every continent.
"The international community must work with shared and long-term political choices to manage a phenomenon that involves the entire world," Italian President Sergio Mattarella, whose country is on the receiving end of Europe's immigration front line, said in a World Refugee Day message.
While migration to the world's 35 richest countries dropped slightly last year for the first time since 2011, asylum claims rose by 26 percent in the United States, according to a new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which represents the wealthy nations.
Meanwhile, the United Nations refugee agency reported this week that nearly 69 million people were forcibly displaced in 2017, a record for the fifth straight year.
OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria insisted that since migration is here to stay, countries need to work to integrate newcomers and to prepare their native-born populations to welcome foreigners instead of resent them.
He noted that while "fears about the impact of refugees on jobs in OECD countries are simply at odds with the facts," young men with limited educations in places like Germany and Austria could be disproportionally affected by an expanded labor force and deserve attention and training.
"The absence of the policy is what's creating this cacophony," Gurria said.
In a sign of the continued divisions, Hungary marked World Refugee Day by approving measures making it harder to obtain asylum and threatening a prison sentence for those who help asylum-seekers.
In the United States, the Trump administration said "new actors" must step up in the global response to refugees. The statement from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did not mention the administration's forced separation of Latino children from their migrant parents.
In Europe, leaders of European Union member countries are trying anew to come up with continent-wide solutions to a mass migration crisis that has pitted nations and politicians against each other.
The interior minister in Italy's new populist government, Matteo Salvini, refused a port of entry this month to a rescue boat operated by two aid groups that carried 630 people who were picked up while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea from Libya.
Italy has been the arriving place of the bulk of migrants who attempt the dangerous sea crossing for a variety of reasons — as seen in the discouraged line outside the Rome immigration office. Salvini is pressing other EU members to share the burden.
Pope Francis urged people not to "let fear get in the way of welcoming our neighbor in need."
Migrants and refugees who were swept off the streets of Paris in recent weeks now occupy a gymnasium, all of them wishing Wednesday to be somewhere else.
Nasir Ahmad, an Afghan living in the Paris gym, spent a year in Germany and then two years waiting for the documents he needed to make France his home. Now, Ahmad has refugee status, but no job.
"I have good energy. I have good energy to do for the work, but nobody used me," he said. "Nothing changed. Only I changed. I get old."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who faces constant criticism and mounting pressure over her decision to open Germany to refugees in recent year, said how to handle the sheer number of people fleeing violence and persecution is "a central global question of our time."
Some 700,000 Rohingya fled brutal attacks by government forces and mobs last year in Myanmar, pouring across the border into crowded makeshift refugee camps in Bangladesh. Monsoon rains have begun sweeping through the camps, often leaving the refugees to wade through rivers of mud and water.
At the Kutupalong refugee camp outside of Cox's Bazaar, Bangladesh, more than 100 Rohingya marched Wednesday to highlight their suffering, demanding that international organizations hold the Myanmar government accountable for the attacks that drove them into exile.
Many wore T-shirts and paper hats proclaiming they are "Not Bengali." In Myanmar, the Rohingya are often derided as illegal migrants from Bangladesh.
Abdu Shukkur, a 44-year-old refugee, denounced the Myanmar government for refusing to recognize the Rohingya as an ethnic minority and for denying them "the right to citizenship and its privileges."
In Lebanon, Syrian refugees have begun building lives in similar camps intended to be temporary way-stations. Turkey remains the country with the largest number of Syrian refugees, but tiny Lebanon holds the highest concentration per capita of refugees in the world.
Em Mohammed, a Syrian refugee from Idlib, supports her three children working as a tailor in Lebanon.
"I won't return because here there is assistance, there are many camps, I can sew, and I can sustain myself," she said. "There (in Syria), there are no camps, no people and they have no money to buy. They don't even have places to sleep there."