The man who is currently playing a crucial role in strengthening strategic relations between Afghanistan and India has seen the worst of Taliban rule in Afghanistan. Afghanistan Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission M. Ashraf Haidari spent his childhood in Kabul and he shares a story that resonates with many others affected by the long conflict in his country.
In an interaction with The Hindu, Mr. Haidari relives his story: “I was in Afghanistan when the Taliban launched its movement. I have experienced hardships both under the Soviet occupation in the 1980s and the Taliban rule in the 1990s. My family in Kabul had to face a lot of struggle for a long time.”
In 1991, when the fighting intensified and scores of civilians were killed every day, thousands of Afghans fled to Pakistan and Iran. “My family was displaced. They took refuge in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif,” he adds. Mr. Haidari was then in the the United States to pursue higher studies.
“I was selling knick-knacks on the streets to support my family and had to miss my grades from Class VIII to Class XII. I realised that if I had to support my family, I needed to pursue higher education. So, I started to learn English. I learned the language by memorising the Oxford Dictionary. Then I got my first job with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which gradually paved the way. In 1997, I went back to the U.S. for higher studies,” says Mr. Haidari.
He holds a Master’s degree in Arts in Security Studies from Georgetown University. He was a Fellow in Foreign Service at Georgetown University Institute for the Study of Diplomacy and holds advanced certificates in International Affairs and Refugee & Humanitarian Emergencies from the University.
Mr. Haidari has been staying in India for the past one year. He now hopes to strengthen relations between India and Afghanistan. “The Indian mission is the largest mission of Afghanistan in terms of projects and the number of staff,” he says.
We have about 10,000 students from Afghanistan who are currently in India pursuing higher studies.
They come here to study social sciences, computer sciences and other subjects. These days, there is a special demand for mining engineering in Afghanistan, so a number of students are coming to study the subject here, he adds .
Scholarships are provided to the students both by the Government of Afghanistan and India.
Also, medical tourism from Afghanistan is on a rise. “We do not have many specialised doctors in Afghanistan. We can do a normal surgery there but treatment for serious diseases like heart ailments and cancer is not available,” he adds.
There are five flights everyday from India to Afghanistan and also the visa norms are not that strict. “We would want people to go to Afghanistan and see the situation for themselves,” said Mr. Haidari.