Deputy Ambassador of Afghanistan to India M. Ashraf Haidari was invited by the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office to participate in a Wilton Park Conference on “Soft Power in Action” on February 3-5, 2014. The three-day conference, participated by senior officials of the public and private sectors of 22 countries, representing all regions of the world, deliberated on the use of “soft power” as a major tool of the 21st century diplomacy, which nations increasingly utilize individually or collectively to influence and persuade others to support their national and international agendas.
In almost every thematic session of the Conference, Afghanistan, where more than 70 countries and international organizations work to build and sustain peace, came up for discussion. In his questions and interventions in each session, Mr. Haidari sought an assessment of “soft power” application by various entities in Afghanistan over the past 12 years. He noted that while the people and government of Afghanistan continue to seek results-oriented international “soft power” involvement, in the form of long-term reconstruction and development assistance to the country, “hard power” has dominated many countries’ involvement in Afghanistan. Such imbalanced approach to peace building in the country has overtime become counter-productive. For example, he noted that while the US had been spending hundreds of billions of dollars on its military operations in Afghanistan, the country had paid scant attention to the long-term human security needs of the country. For 2014, the US Congress recently halved the proposed civilian budget of the US Department of State for Afghanistan. The cut saps the country, in a year of transition to self-reliance, of the critical resources needed to achieve the shared objectives of both countries, as outlined in Afghanistan-US Strategic Partnership Agreement, signed in 2012.
Following the Conference, Mr. Haidari visited the Embassy of Afghanistan in London and met with Ambassador Mohammad Daud Yaar. They reviewed the situation back home, and discussed Afghanistan’s relations with the UK and India respectively. Mr. Haidari pointed out his gratitude to the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office for having invited him to the Wilton Park conferences since 2006, which he has found very helpful in constructively strengthening international relations towards formulation and implementation of win-win policies and strategies.
Read Mr. Haidari’s Piece on Human Security in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan: Human Security is the Key to Victory