Afghanistan Reconnected: Engaging Iran

News | December 22, 2016

EWI’s Afghanistan Reconnected Process aims to further Afghanistan’s stability and development through better economic connectivity with its neighbors. Obviously, Iran is a particularly important neighbor to Afghanistan. In addition, the state of affairs post-sanctions presents fresh opportunities for engaging Iran in regional and international cooperation.

With this in mind, EWI conducted on December 19-20 an outreach mission to Tehran, consisting of senior private sector experts from EWI’s regional network and led by EWI’s Vice President Ambassador Martin Fleischer. A full day of roundtable discussions, organized on behalf EWI’s Iranian Partner, the Institute for Political and International Studies (IPIS), composed of 50 participants from think-tanks, government departments, media and diplomatic corps, as well as Ambassadors of Afghanistan and India to Iran. The mission continued with a series of high-level meetings with government agencies, inter alia with Vice-Foreign Minister Dr. Sajjadpour, and was concluded by a business roundtable hosted by the Iran Chamber of Commerce and its affiliates.

The mission was of tremendous value for understanding Iran’s perspective on Afghanistan and for identifying opportunities as well as stumbling blocks for cross-border cooperation. Key findings include

  • Iran, while already maintaining close ties with its eastern neighbor, stands ready to assume a more active role in strengthening social and economic structures in Afghanistan.
  • To achieve security and stability, Iran favors a regional approach, i.e. one that includes all relevant players, and stands ready to collaborate constructively in such a joint effort.
  • Iran — i.e. government and private sector — are willing to invest in Afghanistan’s energy sector and provide capacity building support so as to increase electricity supply.
  • Iran is determined to promote regional connectivity by substantially contributing to alternative land and sea initiatives which will benefit Afghanistan.
  • There is a need to improve the conditions for trade and investment in Afghanistan, inter alia in terms of legal framework, banking systems, and transparency in contracting.

IPIS and EWI will spell out these findings in more detail, and policy recommendations drawn therefrom, in a policy paper that will be jointly developed by both institutes and published in spring 2017.