Uzbekistan stands for a coherent and coordinated dialogue on Afghanistan
Tashkent, Uzbekistan (UzDaily.com) -- Today, one of the key issues on the international agenda is the situation in Afghanistan after the Taliban came to power. And it is quite natural that it became the central theme of the summit of the SCO heads of state in Dushanbe on 17 September, most of which share a common border with Afghanistan and directly feel the negative consequences of the crisis in this country. Achieving peace and stability in Afghanistan is one of the main security factors in the SCO region.
The seriousness of this issue and the high degree of responsibility with which the states treat its solution is evidenced by the discussion of the Afghan problem in the SCO-CSTO format. At the same time, the main goal of the multilateral negotiations was the search for agreed approaches regarding the situation in Afghanistan.
President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev presented his vision of the ongoing processes in Afghanistan, outlined the challenges and threats associated with them, and also proposed a number of basic approaches to building interaction in the Afghan direction.
In particular, Shavkat Mirziyoyev stated that today a completely new reality has developed in Afghanistan. New forces came to power in the person of the Taliban. At the same time, it was noted that the new authorities still have to go through a difficult path from consolidating society to forming a capable government. Today, there are still risks of Afghanistan returning to the situation of the 90s, when the country was engulfed in a civil war and a humanitarian crisis, and its territory turned into a “hub” of international terrorism and drug production.
At the same time, the head of state stressed that Uzbekistan, as the closest neighbor, which directly faced threats and challenges in those years, clearly understands all the possible negative consequences of the development of the situation in Afghanistan according to this scenario.
In this regard, Shavkat Mirziyoyev called on the SCO countries to join efforts to prevent a protracted crisis in Afghanistan and the associated challenges and threats to the SCO countries.
To this end, it was proposed to establish effective interaction on Afghanistan, as well as conduct a coordinated and coordinated dialogue with the new authorities, carried out in proportion to the observance of their obligations.
First, the importance of achieving broad political representation of all strata of Afghan society in public administration, as well as ensuring the observance of fundamental human rights and freedoms, especially of women and national minorities, was emphasized.
As the President of Uzbekistan noted, in fact, the prospects for stabilizing the situation, restoring Afghan statehood and, in general, the development of interaction of the international community with Afghanistan depend on this.
It should be noted that Tashkent has always adhered to a principled position regarding the need to respect the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the neighboring country, there is no alternative to a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Afghanistan, the importance of a political dialogue and an inclusive negotiation process that takes into account exclusively the will of the entire Afghan people and the diversity of Afghan society.
Today, more than 38 million people live in this country, while more than 50% of them are representatives of ethnic minorities - Tajiks, Uzbeks, Turkmens, Hazaras, from 10 to 15% of the population are Shiite Muslims, there are representatives of other confessions. In addition, in recent years, the role of women in the socio-political processes of Afghanistan has significantly increased. Thus, according to the World Bank, the number of women in the population of Afghanistan is 48%, or about 18 million. Until recently, they held high government posts, including heads of ministries, worked in the spheres of education and health, and actively participated in public and political life. countries as parliamentarians, human rights defenders, journalists.
In this regard, only the formation of a representative government, a balance of interests of ethnopolitical groups, a comprehensive consideration of public and socio-economic interests of all layers of society in public administration are the most important condition for a stable and lasting peace in Afghanistan. Moreover, the effective use of the potential of all social, political, ethnic and confessional groups can make a significant contribution to the early restoration of Afghan statehood and economy, the return of the country to the path of peace and prosperity.
Secondly, it is pointed out the need to prevent the authorities from using the country’s territory for subversive actions against neighboring states, excluding patronage of international terrorist organizations. It was noted that counteracting the possible growth of extremism and the export of radical ideology, suppressing the penetration of militants across the borders and their transfer from hot spots should become one of the key tasks of the SCO.
Over the past 40 years, war and instability in Afghanistan have turned this country into a “haven” for various terrorist groups. Thus, according to the UN Security Council, currently 22 out of 28 international terrorist groups, including IS and Al-Qaeda, operate in the country. They also include immigrants from Central Asia, China and the CIS countries. So far, through joint efforts, it has been possible to effectively stop terrorist and extremist threats emanating from the territory of Afghanistan, to prevent them from spilling over into the space of the countries of Central Asia.
At the same time, the protracted political and power crisis caused by the complex process of forming a legitimate and capable government may cause a security vacuum in Afghanistan. This, in turn, can contribute to the activation of terrorist and extremist groups, increase the risks of transferring their actions to neighboring countries.
Moreover, the humanitarian crisis that Afghanistan is facing today is postponing the prospects for stabilizing the situation in the country. As stated on 13 September 2021, UN Secretary General A. Guterres, in the near future, Afghanistan may face a catastrophe, since almost half of the Afghan population - 18 million people - live in a state of food crisis and emergency. According to the UN, more than half of Afghan children under the age of five suffer from severe malnutrition, and a third of the population is malnourished.
In addition, Afghanistan is facing yet another severe drought, the second in four years, and continues to have a severe negative impact on agriculture and food production. This industry provides 23% of the country’s GDP and 43% of the Afghan population with jobs and livelihoods. Currently, 22 out of 34 Afghan provinces have been severely affected by the drought, incl. year lost 40% of all crops.
Moreover, the situation is exacerbated by the growing poverty of the Afghan population. According to the United Nations Development Program, by now the share of poverty among the population is 72% (27.3 million people out of 38 million), by mid-2022 this figure may reach 97%.
Obviously, Afghanistan itself will not be able to cope with such complex problems. Moreover, 75% of the state budget (US$11 billion) and 43% of the economy have so far been covered by international donations.
Already today, high dependence on imports (imports - US$5.8 billion, exports - US$777 million), as well as freezing and restricting access to foreign exchange reserves have significantly spurred inflation and price increases.
Experts predict that the difficult socio-economic situation, coupled with the deterioration of the military-political situation, may lead to flows of refugees from Afghanistan. According to UN estimates, by the end of this year. their number can reach 515 thousand tons. At the same time, the neighboring SCO member states will become the main recipients of Afghan refugees.
In light of the above, the President of Uzbekistan noted the importance of preventing the isolation of Afghanistan and its transformation into a "rogue country". In this regard, it was proposed to unfreeze Afghanistan’s assets in foreign banks in order to prevent a large-scale humanitarian crisis and an increase in the flow of refugees, as well as to continue assisting Kabul in economic recovery and solving social problems. Otherwise, the country will not be able to get out of the clutches of the illegal economy and will face the expansion of the trade in drugs, weapons and other forms of transnational organized crime. Of course, all the negative consequences of this will first of all be felt by the neighboring countries.
In this regard, the President of Uzbekistan called for the consolidation of efforts of the international community for an early settlement of the situation in Afghanistan and proposed holding a high-level meeting in the SCO-Afghanistan format in Tashkent with the involvement of observer states and dialogue partners.
Undoubtedly, the SCO can make an important contribution to stabilizing the situation and ensuring sustainable economic growth in Afghanistan. Today, all of Afghanistan’s neighbors are either members or observers of the SCO, and are accordingly interested in the country not becoming a source of threats to regional security again. The SCO member states are among the main trading partners of Afghanistan. The volume of trade with them is almost 80% of the total trade turnover of Afghanistan (US$11 billion) with foreign countries.
Moreover, the SCO member states cover more than 80% of electricity needs and more than 20% for wheat and flour.
The involvement of dialogue partners in the process of resolving the situation in Afghanistan, including Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey, Cambodia, Nepal, and now also Egypt, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, will help develop common approaches and establish closer coordination of efforts in ensuring security , the speedy recovery of the economy and the solution of the most significant socio-economic problems of Afghanistan.
In general, the SCO states can play a key role in the post-conflict reconstruction of Afghanistan, help it turn into a responsible subject of international relations. To this end, the SCO countries need to coordinate efforts to establish long-term peace, to integrate Afghanistan into regional and world economic ties. Ultimately, this will lead to the establishment of Afghanistan as a peaceful, stable and prosperous country, free from terrorism, war and drugs, to ensure security and economic prosperity throughout the SCO space.
Akramjon Nematov, First Deputy Director of the Institute for Strategic and Interregional Studies under the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan