India pledges $1 bln in aid to Afghanistan before donor meeting
India promised $1 billion in aid to Afghanistan during a visit to New Delhi on Wednesday by President Ashraf Ghani, making a down payment on stabilisation and reform ahead of a major donor conference next month.
In a statement issued after meeting Ghani, Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged the financial help to back India's "abiding support for a unified, sovereign, democratic, peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan". Both leaders expressed "grave concern at continued use of terrorism and violence in the region for achieving political objectives" – a veiled reference to common neighbour Pakistan, which denies sponsoring terrorism.
As the United States scales back its military presence in Afghanistan, efforts are being ramped up to rebuild the country after decades of conflict dating back to the Soviet invasion of 1979 and a prolonged Taliban insurgency.
Afghanistan's modern past
Many people associate Afghan women with the burqa, the garment that covers a woman's entire face, head and body and is worn in a number of Islamic countries. This is not surprising considering that under Taliban rule – a period that received extensive coverage in Western media – women were required to wear a burqa outside the home. But it wasn't always like this. The German press agency (dpa) recently released a series of historical photos showing Afghan women in Western-style clothes and without veils or headscarves. Qantara.de presents a selection of these photos
This picture, taken in 1962, shows two female medicine students at the University of Kabul listening to their professor as they examine a plaster model of a human body part. At that time, women played an active role in Afghan society. They also had access to education and were able to take up work outside home.
Style on the streets of Kabul: in this photo dating from 1962, two young women dressed in Western-style outfits are seen outside the studios of Radio Kabul. After the fundamentalist Taliban assumed power in the mid-1990s, women were required to wear a burqa in public.
In the mid-1970s, female students were a common sight at Afghan institutes of education such as Kabul's Polytechnic University (pictured here are female students at this institute from this era). Some 20 years later, women's access to education in the conflict-ridden country was completely shut down. Things only changed again after the toppling of the Taliban regime in 2001. The right to education for both men and women was enshrined in the 2003 Afghan Constitution.
Computer science in its infancy: in this picture, a Soviet instructor is seen teaching computing technology to Afghan students at Kabul's Polytechnic Institute. During the 10-year Soviet occupation of Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989, a number of Soviet lecturers taught at Afghan universities.
This 1981 picture shows female and male Afghan students in Kabul. Two years previously, the Soviet invasion of land-locked Afghanistan led to a 10-year war. When the Soviets withdrew from the country in 1989, a civil war ensued, culminating in the Taliban's accession to power in 1996.
Education for all: this picture shows Afghan girls at a secondary school in Kabul at the time of the Soviet occupation. When the Taliban took over in 1996, women and girls were barred from attending school and denied access to education. They were also banned from taking up employment outside the home.
The struggle continues: in this photo, which was taken in 1981, a woman, unveiled and without a headscarf, is seen on a Kabul street with her children. Scenes such as this remain rare to this day. Even almost 15 years after the collapse of the Taliban regime, women continue to struggle for equality in the male-dominated Afghan society. For instance, there is only one woman taxi driver in the entire country.
"Forty years of violence would have broken any other country," Ghani said in a speech to India's Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis, a government-funded think tank, declaring himself "delighted" with Modi's aid pledge.
The former World Bank official said that while armed conflict posed a great threat, it was also vital to build market institutions that could lift living standards in a nation where 70 percent of people live on less than $2 a day.
The European Union and Afghanistan will host a donor conference on Oct. 5 in Brussels attended by 70 states and 30 international organisations and agencies, to seek backing for reforms to stabilise and develop the Central Asian country. (Reuters)
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