NEW DELHI: Tahir Qadiry, Chargé d›Affaires, Embassy of Afghanistan, began his speech at the Indian Defence & Aerospace Summit by saying, “Imagining India without Afghanistan and Afghanistan without India is impossible”, as he emphasised how their relations were as rooted in history and civilisational linkages as in modern, day-to-day dynamics.

“I came across a nice video of former Prime Minister of India, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, where he sharing his experiences while in Ghazni. Vajpayee was surprised to find a hotel named Kanishka, a king who had ruled most of India. When he asked the hotel owner who this Kanishka was, he was told that the king was their forefather. To this Vajpayee said that perhaps our ancestors were the same. People of Afghanistan might have changed their way of worship but not their culture and tradition,” said Qadiry.

The Chargé d›Affaires of the Afghan Embassy recalled this story to showcase the depth of the India-Afghanistan relations. “This explains why India was the first country with which Afghanistan signed a strategic alliance in 2011, which is a blueprint for cooperation between the two countries.”

Qadiry thanked India for supporting several significant projects in Afghanistan aimed at winning the hearts and minds of people there. One of the biggest investments of India in Afghanistan has been education. “Since 2003, more than 60,000 Afghani students have been graduated from India. So, we have some of the brightest people among our ministers, think tanks, professors and civil servants are educated in India. Currently, 16,000 students are studying in India. India also gives scholarships Afghan students.”

The second biggest contribution, according to Qadiry, was India’s constant solidarity with Afghan democracy. “By deciding to build the Parliament building in Kabul, India has helped entrench democracy in Afghanistan,” he said, adding how India has implemented 200 other projects, including the biggest water dam in Afghanistan, Salma Dam.

But India’s relations with Afghanistan isn’t just confined to education and infrastructure. “Military-wise, a week ago, India handed over the last helicopters to Afghanistan, total 7-8 helicopters. Also, India treats wounded Afghan soldiers,” he said.

Qadiry believed this would help the Afghanistan government effectively push back the Taliban. “The handing over of helicopters from our great friend India will further change the dynamics in our favour,” he said as he admitted that challenges still exist in tackling terror. “Yes, there are challenges because we are at the frontline of fighting terrorism. Our people are victims of that. The Taliban, despite a lot of efforts, have not been able to capture any main cities in Afghanistan. In fact, we are now recapturing some of the villages from them.”

The Chargé d›Affaires, Embassy of Afghanistan, also stated that the perception of Afghans in India of being a Kabuliwala must change. “Afghanistan has changed a lot. We are now developing economically very fast,” he said as he reminded how India is the prime destination for Afghan goods and products. “In 2017-18, the value of bilateral trade has reached $1 billion. The same period saw 48% increase in Afghan export to India,” he added.

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