Afghanistan Ambassador to India Shaida Abdali quits suddenly: 3 possible reasons
New Delhi, Sept 20: For all those who harbour a strong hope over India's relations with Afghanistan and how their deepening relationship could pose a challenge to Pakistan in South Asia, Wednesday's (September 19) development was a not a happy news.
After six years of service, Afghanistan's Ambassador to India Dr Shaida Abdali tendered his resignation. In the diplomatic circles, to and fro movement of officials is not new. But what was striking with Abdali's stepping down is that the announcement came when Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani is on a visit to India and that it was announced in a series of tweets which means Ambassador Abdali was eager to make it a public exercise than something done behind the official confinements.
The sudden decision left the diplomatic and political circles stunned. Dr Abdali was a popular diplomat and even a few days before tendering his resignation, he was busy in engagements as a diplomat is generally found. So what was it that led to this resignation abruptly?
In an interview to the Hindu, Abdali said he has decided to go back to Afghanistan to work for it from within. "Right now, I want to look at priorities for Afghanistan. Today if you tell me I have to choose between being the Ambassador and a situation in Afghanistan where national unity and peace is at risk, I would prefer to work for peace and unity in my country," he said.
"Public life is not a privilege in Afghanistan, it is a sacrifice. I understand that, and I am willing to sacrifice," he added.
Dr Abdali also said: "I wish Afghanistan had been in a better place by now. I am returning because the situation is so much worse than it was 6 years ago. We had a much better environment. I had hoped I would return to peace and stability. Today I return out of compulsion, because there is a pressing need to return and do something to help the situation there."
Apparently, the diplomat has decided to return to Afghanistan to serve his personal aspirations of doing something good for his country. But there could be more to the story that led to his stepping down.
Ghani government's internal trouble multiplies
First and foremost, Dr Abdali's departure is an indication that the Ghani government in Afghanistan is not in a good health. Political and ethnic divisions have always been a bane for this government and with the president himself becoming increasingly isolated, one doesn't feel surprised to see exit of some of his government's top officials. In August, Ghani's national security adviser Hanif Atmar resigned because of serious differences with the leadership over political issues and also the government's approach towards peace and stability in the war-ravaged country. Atmar is said to be preparing to contest the presidential elections scheduled in April 2019. One would not rule out a similar move from Dr Abdali whose words "the situation is so much worse than it was 6 years ago" could be a hint.
Ghani govt under more pressure, even from countries like Pakistan
Secondly, since the Ghani government is finding itself under more pressure with each passing day and has virtually failed to put things in order in its own country politically or militarily, its negotiating power with problematic neighbours like Pakistan has dwindled. Ghani has been seen taking a hard-and-soft approach vis-à-vis Pakistan and recently, also expressed interest in kick-starting the relationship with the new government of its eastern neighbour.
His government also received Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Foreign Secretary Tahmina Janjua just a few days ago in Kabul. The hapless Ghani government and its friend, the United States, are trying to mend fences with Pakistan, especially after the dastardly attack in Ghazni in August which killed several security personnel. Did Pakistan put pressure on the Ghani government to get rid of the India-friendly diplomat promising strategic and political cooperation in exchange? If that is the case, it could have put Dr Abdali, a staunch critic of Pakistan, in an odd position and he had no other choice but to quit.
Afghanistan govt's unsteady stance puts India in discomfort
Thirdly, as the Ghani government has found itself on an even weaker ground over the last four years, thanks to its own internal problems and lack of policy direction of its ally like the United States apart from piling on military personnel, there has been a clear lack of stance over the Taliban. The leadership has blown hot and cold over engaging with the Taliban who have only regained foothold across the country and have found backing from other external players.
This has not helped Afghanistan's relationship with India for New Delhi finds itself in an uncomfortable position over the policy of 'talking to Taliban'. It is natural that people like Dr Abdali, who has been a strong supporter of India and critic of terror and its patrons in his own country, will find it unsustainable.
Dr Abdali's open announcement of his resignation when his president is touring the same country he has served ambassador to could be a way the diplomat expressed his discontent with things and announced the decision in the public to show that he had a popular support in India. The fact that Ghani did not acknowledge the diplomat's departure on the social media could also hint at the fact that not everything is rosy in his government.
Whatever it is, the ambassador's sudden departure wasn't a development that the two countries aspiring to cement their relationship for mutual benefit would appreciate.