'Successful political transition in Afghanistan crucial to peace'

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Afghanistan
New Delhi, Oct 8: With international forces set to draw down in 2014, a successful political transition in Afghanistan with the holding of presidential polls next year would contribute majorly to peace in that country, experts and analysts said.

While a lot of focus is on the security transition, with the US-led forces set to draw down and the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) set to take over, a key transition in 2014 would be the presidential polls in which Hamid Karzai is not contesting.

"A successful political transition, when the elections are peaceful and the results are accepted by all, including the international community, will legitimise the institutions that the Afghans have created," said former Indian envoy to Afghanistan Rakesh Sood at a talk here on Monday evening.

Sood, who is Special Envoy of the Prime Minister for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Issues, said in the last 12 years the Afghans have 'turned their backs on decades of conflict and begun work on building a pluralistic" society.

Addressing a talk during the launch of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) India Policy Paper on Afghanistan at the India International Centre on Monday evening, Sood said relations between "Indians and Afghans goes back deep in history, and Indians share the vision that Afghans have for their country - of a strong, stable, united and independent Afghanistan where all ethnic groups can co-exist and share in the fruits of development".

He enumerated India's $2 billion developmental aid to Afghanistan, which includes building the Zeranj-Delaram Highway, construction of the Afghan parliament building in Kabul, the Salma dam project, participating in a massive school feeding programme, gifting 400 buses plus trucks. Sood said India does not look at its development partnership in "competitive terms".

Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari, who formally released the report and said he was speaking for himself and not for the government, said India needs to see that a security vacuum does not develop in Afghanistan with the drawdown and for that he proposed that an Afghan-specific dialogue  be held with Pakistan.

He said there was need to engage with Iran and other stakeholders "to see that the political handover does not degenerate not to anybody's liking". The report is titled Envisioning Afghanistan Post 2014, Perspectives and Strategies for Constructive Conflict Resolution from the Neighbourhood.

Maj Gen (retd) Ashok K. Mehta, an independent strategic analyst, said the impending drawdown by the US and its allies should be a "responsible withdrawal", leaving no vacuum.

IANS

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