Ambassador Shyam Saran, Chairman of India's National Security Advisory Board and former Indian Foreign Secretary, briefed Washington members of Asia Society Friday evening on India's perspective on several key issues affecting Afghanistan's future.
"This is not the same Afghanistan as it was 10 years ago," he said, "Good things are happening in Afghanistan, and part of the reason why they are happening is… the democratic process is slowly taking hold."
Video: Highlights from the discussion (15 min., 48 sec.)
Reviewing Indian policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Ambassador emphasized the need for a successful Afghanistan election in 2014. He urged the international community, including India, to support Afghan's upcoming elections by lending monitors and observers to ensure its success.
Ambassador Saran stated that India will continue to fully support Afghanistan's peace process. In Pakistan, the Ambassador saw a shift among the perceptions of the elite, who now see Afghanistan instability as a threat to Pakistan's security, and therefore are more actively promoting the peace process. Although he expressed concerns that domestic opposition groups see it more in their interest to wait out the political transition rather than take an active role in reconciliation, the Ambassador stated that once a popular leader is chosen in free and fair elections and is perceived as legitimate by the Afghan people, greater progress can be made in the peace process.
The Ambassador expressed confidence in the Afghan security forces, stating that, with continued support and training, "there is no reason to believe they will not be able to hold their own." He noted that India has provided training and support to Afghan police and security forces, and will continue to do so. Ambassador Saran added that the support of regional powers in containing opposition groups on the other side of the border is also needed.
The Ambassador noted that the elections and withdrawal in 2014 would not be a deadline for peace, but would take much more time for Afghanistan's reconciliation. He reaffirmed India's commitment to stability and development in Afghanistan, stating that, "post-2014, it is India's intention that support to Afghanistan will continue and that intention has been publicly expressed by the Prime Minister."
Ambassador Shyam Saran is Chairman of the National Security Advisory Board of India. He previously served as Foreign Secretary, India's highest-ranking career diplomatic post; Prime Minister Singh's Special Envoy for Indo-U.S. Civil Nuclear Issues and Special Envoy and Chief Negotiator on Climate Change; as well as Ambassador to Myanmar, Indonesia and Nepal.