iconimg Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Catherine James, Hindustan Times
Kabul, April 05, 2014
On Saturday, Afghanistan will undergo the first autonomous democratic transfer of power in its history. As one of the youngest democracies in the Central-South Asia region, much depends on the success of this election and stability of entire region. Despite a spate of terror attacks in recent weeks, including a number of kidnappings and murders of election staff in the provinces, Afghans have displayed a certain resilience and desire to have their voices heard. Abbas Farasoo, a Kabul-based regional analyst and the chairman of a policy- and strategy-focused think-tank A3 (Afghanistan Analysis and Awareness), told HT that the implications for India and Pakistan are far-reaching.

“The peaceful transition of power and the stability of Afghanistan should not just be seen in the context of a single country,” he said. “This election is important not just for Afghanistan, but for all the region. This includes India and Pakistan as well.”

Farasoo highlighted the strategic agreement signed between India and Afghanistan in 2011, saying it would become paramount in the decade ahead – termed by key players in the country as the “Transforamtion Decade”. Sauturday poll is the entry point to the Transformation Decade, and as such it is also the launch pad for the growing importance India is set to play in Afghanistan, in terms of political stability, economic cooperation, and of security.

With the international forces winding down their presence in the country — and the bilateral security agreement with the US still in limbo – Afghanistan will be looking more and more to its regional partners for support in the face of the ongoing security threat from extremists.

Similarly, the military war chest that pumped Afghanistan’s economy for over a decade has been slashed. The country is facing a revenue deficit of about $9 billion, according to the Ministry of Finance. Afghanistan is also in the throes of democratisation.

If it fails at this early stage to complete that process, it is likely to ripple out into the region – and damage especially Pakistan’s own first steps in democratisation, Farasoo said.

It is in India’s interests to have democratic nations on its doorstep.

(Catherine James is a freelance journalist based in Kabul)