Colombo: - Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari congratulated Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar on assuming the office of Designate and Acting Foriegn Minister of Afghanistan, on April 6, 2020. He said, "It's been an honor, having worked with Foreign Minister Atmar on and off since 2004. His dedicated leadership to manage for results under difficult circumstances is a national asset."

Ambassador Haiari added, "We at the Embassy of Afghanistan in Colombo look forward to doing our part to advance one of the principal goals of Foriegn Minister Atmar: to cement and deepen our regional and global partnerships to further the causes of peace, security, and sustainable development at home and abroad."

 
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Colombo: - In a letter in early April 2020, President Ashraf Ghani thanked President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for his recent congratulatory message on his reelection as the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. He reaffirmed his commitment to further expanding bilateral relations between Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, while wishing all friendly Sri Lankans fine health, peace and prosperity.

 
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Colombo: - Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari received a very thoughtful phone call from Sri Lankan Minister of Foreign Relations Dinesh Gunawardena on March 27, 2020. They discussed the shared concern of their two Governments about the global COVID-19 pandemic. The Foreign Minister extended his regards to his Afghan counterpart Acting Foriegn Minister Haroon Chakhansuri, expressing his nation's solidarity with Afghanistan, in light of the global corona-virus challenge.

Ambassador Haidari briefed him on the extensive containment and mitigation measures -- which President Ashraf Ghani has undertaken to protect the public against the spread of COVID19. These humanitarian efforts, however, are hindered by the ongoing violence and terrorist attacks on innocent civilians across Afghanistan, Ambassador Haidari told Foreign Minister Gunawardena.

Moreover, they agreed that at this hour of humanity in crisis, all violence must cease and vulnerable countries with meager resources should be aided as an integral part of a whole of the world approach, recalling the recommendations of the recent Video-Summits of SAARC & the G-20.

Ambassador Haidari informed Foreign Minister Gunawardena of the Afghan Embassy's smooth operations, thanking Sri Lankan Ministry of Foreign Relations for their usual support. He also took note of the growing Afghanistan-Sri Lanka relations and thanked President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for his personal attention and support.

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Colombo: - Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari has been featured in the March 2020 issue of Sri Lanka's Pioneering Business Magazine: LMD. Read the full feature story on "In Defiance of All Odds," which covers all aspects of the growing ties between Afghanistan and Sri Lanka; the gains of the Afghan people over the past 19 years; the key challenges confronting Afghanistan and South Asia; the role of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC); and the way forward in Afghanistan and the rest of the region.

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LMD: The Voice of Business

March 2020

DIPLOMATIC MISSION

Compiled by Savithri Rodrigo

IN DEFIANCE OF ALL ODDS

Ashraf Haidari highlights what’s required to move past conflict

Some months back, a delegation of Afghan female peace leaders visited Sri Lanka, announcing that women in Afghanistan are as engaged in national development as their male counterparts. And for a country that’s faced numerous challenges and been at the heart of global controversy – including its treatment of women – Afghanistan is more progressive than the world realises.

This is according to the Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Ashraf Haidari, who asserts: “Women have come a long way since the fall of the Taliban, which unfortunately is what the world remembers. Today, women are fully present in our society, contributing to the economy and serving in leadership positions as ministers, deputy ministers and heads of mission in Washington, the UN and previously Norway, Indonesia and Switzerland.”

Afghanistan’s Ministry of Women’s Affairs promotes women’s empowerment and the nation boasts a female representation of 27 percent in parliament (which is higher than the US and Britain). The country’s constitution embeds equal rights for women and is said to have the freest media in the region with zero censorship.

“The delegation that visited Sri Lanka was keen to learn from Sri Lanka’s peace building experience, and how women can engage in the reconciliation and reintegration processes. We want to learn from Sri Lanka’s transition from war to peace including reintegration, and reconciliation initiatives and programmes, which have delivered tangible results,” Haidari says.

Having presented his credentials in November, he became the second Afghan ambassador to Sri Lanka since 2013 when the countries established direct bilateral ties. Haidari’s bonds with the island were cemented when as Deputy Chief of Mission in New Delhi, his work covered Sri Lanka.

The six decade relationship between Sri Lanka and Afghanistan – although intermittent due to conflict on both sides – was boosted by the countries’ presidents meeting often, which strengthened a friendship that has stood in good stead.

He elaborates: “Your vibrant and resilient democracy inspires younger democracies such as ours. I’m pleased by the steps both sides have taken to expand bilateral relations. This includes launching the Sri Lanka-Afghanistan Parliamentary Friendship Association, and eight agreements and MOUs signed since 2013 covering education, science, technology, the economy, sports, health and labour, as well as academic cooperation between Kabul University and the University of Colombo.”

To optimise advantages, Haidari says both countries should explore maritime security cooperation opportunities in counterterrorism, anti-narcotics and against human trafficking. “We need training and capacity building support in areas of mutual interest – especially sharing expertise in mine clearance, counterinsurgency and asymmetric warfare,” he says.

In addition, Haidari seeks to instigate business opportunities for Sri Lanka in the areas of skilled labour, agriculture and agribusiness, education, healthcare, construction, telecommunications, logistics and transportation, tea exports and design skills in gemmology.

“Sri Lanka is best positioned in the Indian Ocean for speedy development and must realise its vast potential to grow exponentially. It is already ahead of many countries in South Asia for social indicators and it’s only a matter of unleashing the potential to reach the top. This will come with good leadership,” he affirms.

A Senior Fellow of New America’s International Security programme in Washington D.C., Haidari publishes extensively and has been critical of fundamentalism of all hues. “We are devoutly religious but moderate and receptive to change,” he remarks.

Commenting on the destruction of the Bamyan Buddha statues, Haidari states that they stood tall, revered and protected in preceding centuries under Afghan empires, and espouses Islam as a faith of peace, coexistence and tolerance.

Regarding global geopolitics, he opines that while some dangerous threats are transnational by nature, others are regional: “But they symbiotically reinforce one another.”

He continues: “Therefore, when non-state actors tied up with regional entities and espoused competing conflicting geopolitical interests, Afghanistan became a battlefield, creating an enabling setup for transnational terrorist networks,” Haidari explains.

He observes that the past four decades have been particularly unkind to his peace and freedom loving people: “Despite the destructive conflicts imposed, we have persevered to survive and thrive.”

“The fall of the Taliban resulted in major strides towards sustainable peace, democracy and prosperity although not without sacrifices. It is in defiance of these complexities that our developing democracy held its fourth presidential election last year with many Afghans casting their ballot despite terrorist threats and attacks,” he adds.

And he observes that regional economic integration is the only option to address longstanding or protracted interstate tensions in South Asia.

Haidari explains that “while SAARC can be the catalyst for sustainable development in South Asia, such efforts are hindered due to hostilities between two member states. Confrontational policies at the regional level must be replaced with cooperative win-win partnerships to gradually minimise existing interstate tensions.”

“South Asia is a young and naturally endowed region. A secure future for youth in a common interdependent neighbourhood can only be offered if we learn relevant lessons from pre and postwar Europe whereby tough but necessary policy choices are made against the status quo to achieve peace and prosperity,” he concludes.

 

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Jaffna: - Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari discussed the topic of "How Afghanistan's Stabilization Can Ensure Maritime Security in the Indian Ocean" with the Commander of Northern Naval Area Rear Admiral Kapila Samaraweera and His Flag Commanders in Jaffna, as part of his recent provincial visit to the north, on March 13, 2020.

The Ambassador analyzed that most of the threats facing the international community are transnational by nature, including pandemics like COVID-19, and that terrorism, drug-trafficking, human-trafficking, as well as other organized terrorist-criminal activities are intertwined and emanate as much from littoral states as from landlocked but increasingly landlinked states with vulnerabilities that provide an enabling environment for the growth of such threats -- which he recommended be addressed both regionally and internationally.

For an analytical discussion of these threats and Afghanistan's relevance to helping ensure maritime security, read Ambassador Haidari's early article in The National Interest at the following link here.
 
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Jaffna: - As part of his provincial visit to Jaffna, Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari met with local communities, including paying a visit to Nallur South Sri Vigneswara Vidyalayam School -- which educates kids from destitute families.

He was given a very warm welcome by the students, to whom he introduced Afghanistan and offered to arrange their bus trip to Colombo where they could visit the Afghan Embassy and other places of their interest. He also gave them a small token of appreciation for their warm welcome: notebooks, chocolate bars and milkshakes.

 
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Jaffna: Following his productive meeting with Commander of the Security Forces-Jaffna, Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari met the Commander of Northern Naval Area Rear Admiral Kapila Samaraweera as part of his provincial visit to the north, on March 13, 2020.

They discussed discussed the growing Afghanistan-Sri Lanka ties, as well as the wartime and post-war Sri Lanka for relevant lessons to be learned for Afghanistan, as we're seeking to end the imposed war and to facilitate the post-war reintegration of combatants, prisoners, IDPs, returnees, as well as mine-clearance of the war areas.

Ambassador Haidari looks forward to Afghanistan-Sri Lanka 
collaboration on these and other issues of bilateral interest and concern.

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Jaffna: Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari had a productive meeting with the Commander of Security Forces in Jaffna Major General Ruwan Wanigasooriya, on March 12, 2020. They discussed the role of the Sri Lankan armed forces in post-war Jaffna, which had been the scene of much combat in the country's three-decade war before it ended in 2009.

On issues of mutual interest and relevance to post-conflict Afghanistan, they discussed opportunities for bilateral military cooperation, including lessons to be learned from Sri Lanka on reintegration of combatants, prisoners, internally displaced persons, returnees, as well as peace and reconciliation that encompass ongoing peacebuilding and peacekeeping.

Ambassador Haidari found the briefing by General Wanigasooriya informative, as Afghanistan looks forward to formalizing its defene ties with Sri Lanka by signing a bilateral MOU soon.

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Jaffna: As part of his provincial visit on March 11, 2020, Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari called on the Honorable Jaffna District Secretary and Government Agent K. Mahesan, with whom he discussed the post-conflict socioeconomic development of Jaffna for lessons to be learned on sustainable reintegration of former combatants, internally displaced persons, returnees, as well as psychosocial support for the disabled, widowed, and orphaned children.

They also discussed the ongoing de-mining programs that have cleaned large swaths of land that was formerly mined in the Jaffna District. The Ambassador found the briefing very informative and relevant to the post-conflict needs of Afghanistan.

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Jaffna: Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari had a very productive meeting with the leadership of the Chamber of Commerce and Industries of Yarlpanam, as part of his Jaffna visit, on March 11, 2020.

Discussing bilateral investment opportunities, they agreed that a cooperation MOU be signed between CCIY and the Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) to begin exchanging trade delegations.

Read the following recent news report to learn about the many bilateral investment opportunities in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, which the Trade Desk to be launched, following the signing of a Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and ACCI MOU, will facilitate.

Report link here

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