Afghan chief executive visits India to enhance trade, strategic ties

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, right, welcomes Afghanistan's Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah in New Delhi, on Thursday. (AP)
Updated 30 September 2017
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Afghan chief executive visits India to enhance trade, strategic ties

NEW DELHI: Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah paid a two-day visit to India as part of US and Afghan efforts to have New Delhi play a greater role in Afghanistan.
Abdullah attended “Passage to Prosperity,” a US-sponsored trade and investment initiative focusing on better regional integration by strengthening Afghan-Indian economic ties.
“The relationship between India and Afghanistan is very healthy and forward-looking,” Abdullah told the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) in New Delhi on Friday. On Thursday, New Delhi signed an agreement with Kabul to train Afghan police.
An Indian government statement said Prime Minister Narendra Modi “reiterated India’s commitment to extend full support to Afghanistan’s efforts for building a peaceful, united, prosperous, inclusive and democratic Afghanistan.”
Abdullah was accompanied by around 200 Afghan businessmen and traders, who set up stalls at “Passage to Prosperity” to explore opportunities in India while tapping new markets for Afghan products such as carpets, spices and farm produce.
Entrepreneurs from other fields such as health care, infrastructure and energy also attended the event, seeking support from Indian investors.
The biggest space in the investment fair was occupied by people exploring the “traditional Afghan dried-fruit market in India,” dried-fruit seller Nasser Ahmad told Arab News.
He expressed hope that the air corridor established between India and Afghanistan “will facilitate the transportation of dried and fresh fruit from Kabul at a reasonable price.”
Abdullah said the Afghan national unity government is open to talks with the Taliban, telling Arab News: “We want a dignified peace, and the group that wants to talk to us should give up links with terror networks, work for their own country and contribute to the wellbeing of our people. This is our hope, and based on that we’ve kept the door open for talks and negotiations.”
Ahmad, accompanying Abdullah, said: “Instability isn’t going away from Afghanistan anytime soon, and we have to find ways to live a life and carry on with our business.”


New Chicago mayor gives Arabs hope

Updated 24 May 2019
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New Chicago mayor gives Arabs hope

  • The election of Lori Lightfoot as mayor gives Chicago’s Arabs an opportunity to reverse the damage that Rahm Emanuel has caused
  • Emanuel’s first acts as mayor included blocking the annual Arabesque Festival, which Jewish groups complained against

Plagued by ongoing controversies and criticism that he tried to hide a video of Chicago police killing a black teenager in October 2014, Rahm Emanuel decided he had had enough as the city’s mayor and decided to retire.

Elected in 2011 with a big boost from his former boss, US President Barack Obama — also a Chicago native — Emanuel served two full terms.

But his hopes of reversing the city’s tumbling finances, improving its poorly performing schools, and reversing record gun-related violence and killings, all failed.

However, Emanuel did have one success. He managed to gut the involvement of Chicago’s Arab-American minority in city-sponsored events, responding favorably to its influential Jewish-American community leadership, which complained about Palestinian activists who advocated for statehood and challenged Israeli oppression.

Emanuel’s first acts as mayor included blocking the annual Arabesque Festival, which Jewish groups complained included photographs of Palestinians protesting against Israel. The festival had only been launched four years earlier by his predecessor in 2007.

Emanuel also disbanded the Advisory Commission on Arab Affairs, and ended Arab American Heritage Month, which had been held every November since it was recognized by Harold Washington, Chicago’s first black mayor.

Emanuel refused to discuss his reasons for these decisions with leaders of Chicago’s Arab community.

He declined repeated requests by me to interview him, despite my having interviewed seven Chicago mayors. He declined similar requests from other Arab journalists.

While he hosted iftars for Muslims, he never hosted an Arab heritage celebration during his eight years in office.

His father was a leader of the Irgun, which was denounced as a terrorist organization in the 1940s by the British military.

The Irgun murdered British soldiers and thousands of Palestinian civilians, and orchestrated the bloody Deir Yassin massacre on April 9, 1948.

Before becoming mayor, Emanuel volunteered at an Israeli military base repairing damaged vehicles. His pro-Israel stance was never challenged by the mainstream US news media.

But with the election in February of Lori Lightfoot as mayor, Chicago’s Arabs have an opportunity to reverse the damage that Emanuel caused.

Lightfoot was sworn into office on Monday and serves for four years. She has already reached out to Arabs, appointing at least two Palestinians to her 400-person transition team, whose members often remain and assume government positions with new administrations.

The two Palestinians in her transition team are Rush Darwish and Rami Nashashibi. Darwish has organized several successful marathons in Chicago and Bethlehem to raise funds for the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund. Nashashibi is involved with the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN).

As an African American, Lightfoot knows what it is like to be the victim of racism, stereotypes and discrimination. That makes her more sensitive to the concerns of Chicago’s Arabs.