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In this Idea Exchange, Shaida M. Abdali, Afghanistan's Ambassador to India, speaks about post-2014 Afghanistan, engagement with the Taliban and the roles played by India and Pakistan in the region. This session was moderated by Deputy Editor Pranab Dhal Samanta
Pranab Dhal Samanta: What are the major achievements in Afghanistan that inspire confidence for its future?
Shaida M. Abdali: Afghanistan's story is very long. We have achieved a lot in the last 10-11 years. I remember days in Kabul when life was almost nil in the city—no traffic, none of the signs of a normal life. Today, you will have traffic similar to that in Delhi. That means progress, more economic development, more people living in Kabul. It's very different from the life we had in 2001. What have we achieved? On the political front, Afghanistan has a very progressive constitution. We have held elections over the last 11 years—presidential and parliamentary. We are now preparing for the next presidential elections. We have government institutions full of young talent coming back from India and around the world. We are spending thousands of US dollars on international experts in our ministries so that they can advise government officials on dealing with day-to-day business. So, we are gradually moving to our own human resources. Our healthcare services are now available throughout the country. Today, over nine million children go to school, 34 per cent of them are girls. On economic development, billions of dollars of investment is coming in from all parts of the world. Fortunately, Afghanistan is full of treasure. One reason why it has always been attacked is its economic potential: Afghanistan is full of minerals, 400 kinds of minerals, unexploited, untapped. We are so happy that we have Indian investors, major Indian companies coming in. Our natural resources will be exploited by countries around the world but preference will go to countries in the region, especially to India. The survival of Afghanistan is the survival of the region.2014 is looming ahead of us. The framework that ensures a transition came through lengthy negotiations. We now have 75 per cent of the transition complete. The places where we have Afghan control are doing much better than they were doing before, under foreign troops. That is because we have Afghans facing Afghans instead of Afghans facing foreign troops. Newspapers, think-tanks portray a grim scenario of the country and its future. That's not true. The criticism is politically motivated. We are focusing on our problems to be solved within the region. We are glad India and Pakistan are taking some steps towards normalcy. The visit of our President to India was very successful. We are expecting a major Indian delegation of the business community led by high-ranking government representatives to come to Afghanistan. Things are normal. We have pockets of violence. But there is a good environment for investment.