Will Afghans Ever See Better Days? – OpEd


Afghanistan, a land-locked country bordered by Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and China and with a mix of central highlands and peripheral foothills and plains, has always been vulnerable to the influence of the neighboring countries and a highly divisive population under the control of sectarian leaders.

In the last few centuries, Afghanistan has remained as one of the most under developed countries in the world with large section of population remaining underfed, uneducated and with little contact with the outside world.

Unfortunately, such conditions continue to exist even today, with Afghanistan becoming a play field for terrorists (Taliban) and countries like Russia, America and even Pakistan as well as Iran to some extent. The ground reality is that the people of Afghanistan now live with low confidence and practically without any hopes of immediate improvement in their conditions.

With 30% of the territory still under the control of the militants who strike and hit at their will and the Afghan government looking forward to the US government for survival, people of Afghanistan are living under stressful conditions. While the American forces have brought some semblance of governance in Afghanistan, it is unfortunate that the politicians who happen to control Afghan government today, after the formation of the National Unity government, have not been able to bring around significant changes for the better.

The matter of high concern is like several other governments in Asia and Africa, Afghanistan also suffers from rampant corruption in administration involving senior politicians and government officials. There is lack of rule of law and it is not due to the activity of the militants alone but due to poor governance of the Afghan government.

It is true that militants control part of the territory but such conditions exist even in India today to a lesser extent and Sri Lanka suffered from such conditions for a long time. This situation cannot be considered as adequate reason for not developing Afghanistan to its full potential by the Afghan government.

What Afghanistan badly needs today is economic and industrial growth appropriate to the conditions in the country, which is very much feasible.

Despite being one of the poorest nations in the world, Afghanistan may be sitting on one of the richest deposits of minerals in the world, which is valued as high as nearly $1 trillion by experts.

The surveys reveal that Afghanistan may hold 60 million tons of copper, 2.2 billion tons of iron ore, 1.4 million tons of rare earth elements such as lanthanum, cerium and neodymium and huge deposits of aluminium, gold, silver, zinc, mercury and lithium. For instance, the Khanneshin carbonatite deposit in Afghanistan’s Helmand province is valued at $89 billion, full as it is with rare earth elements.

Apart from mineral deposits, there are also enormous potentials for developing the agricultural sector in Afghanistan, appropriate to it’s soil and climatic conditions.

The primary requisite to realise the full potentials of Afghanistan is to focus on human development and women empowerment. The government of Afghanistan should seek international support to promote massive educational and technical institutions in Afghanistan, that would lead to the building up of technological and engineering skill apart from expertise in other areas. The efforts to develop the human resources will certainly pave way for progress towards better conditions in the course of time.

Certainly people of Afghanistan are viewed with sympathy world over for the difficult conditions that they have undergone which they continue to face. Afghanistan needs international support which will readily come, if only the Afghan government can create the appropriate conditions and implement the right policies.

It is a good sign that India has been helping Afghanistan in forging ahead.

A parliament building has been constructed in Kabul and $300 million Salma dam project in Herat province has been inaugurated with the support of government of India.

The need of the day is that the morale of the Afghans should be built and sustained in spite of the militant threat and other problems. While Afghan government has to improve it’s governance, the educated and enlightened citizens of Afghanistan need also to play an active role in building up the country.

N. S. Venkataraman

N. S. Venkataraman is a trustee with the "Nandini Voice for the Deprived," a not-for-profit organization that aims to highlight the problems of downtrodden and deprived people and support their cause. To promote probity and ethical values in private and public life and to deliberate on socio-economic issues in a dispassionate and objective manner.

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