Rebuilding Afghanistan with Rivers and Emigrants

On a trip to Brussels last week I came across two research papers on rebuilding Afghanistan from the East-West Institute, which point out interesting strategies for Afghan reconstruction and security. Both papers emphasize the need for international co-operation for a regional solution for Afghanistan. The first of these stresses the importance of co-operation on water sharing, already a big security issue in South Asia.

The almost total absence of bilateral or regional cooperation on water between Afghanistan and its neighbors is a serious threat to sustainable development and security in the region. The ever-increasing demand for water, the unpredictable availability of water, and the inefficient management of water resources combine to form a complex but solvable challenge to regional security and development. Currently there are hardly any spaces in which to cooperatively address trans-boundary water issues. There are hardly any forums for dialogue or bilateral or multilateral agreements, and possibilities for data sharing or joint action are limited. (Full report here)

The other report points out how Gulf states could contribute to development in the region by promoting immigration from Afghanistan, especially for blue-collar workers, a lot of whom they already draw from South Asia

The potential of remittances to enhance economic development in poor developing nations is highlighted by the many successful examples of remittance flows to Asian countries, whose workers are based in member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council. In that context, the volume of remittances sent home is, for many developing countries, the largest source by far of external capital. In many cases migrant labor contributes considerably to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of recipient countries. (Full reports here)

These reports point to sustainable development strategies that are often ignored in conflicts. Water scarcity which feeds conflicts from Darfur to Kashmir, and addressing it is one of the easiest ways for the international community to alleviate them.  And while I have yet to come across previous evidence of it, immigration has proven to be helpful in poverty reduction and hence presents an opportunity to ensure human security.


Further reading on Af-Pak: I would also like to point to two blogs that I find extremely informative for their detailed analysis on main-stream media reports, as well as military strategy in AfPak. The Afghan Analysts Network Blog, from the eponymous think-tank in Kabul, provides analysis and reviews of Western policy in Afghanistan on the basis of ground reports and research. provides excellent analysis of media reports on Afghanistan based on the authors experience of Central Asia, and a sustained engagement with Western policy in the region. Both these, IMO, are excellent advocates for the need for military strategists to engage with academic research, especially ground-based anthropological and sociological research, something which has been consistently been found to be lacking in AfPak.

Previously: A Video, and My Two Bits, on Afghanistan

2 thoughts on “Rebuilding Afghanistan with Rivers and Emigrants

  1. “And while I have yet to come across previous evidence of it, immigration has proven to be helpful in poverty reduction and hence presents an opportunity to ensure human security.”

    – Perhaps. But there’s another side to the story.

    On a recent trip to Kerala, which is home to the biggest immigrant community in the Gulf, I noticed a rather disconcerting trend. Almost every family has kin in the Gulf. Yes, they send home money. But no, life there is not a dream. As I’m sure you are aware, labour rights across the Gulf are abysmal, and blue collared workers are often no better than bonded slaves.

    And yet, migration to the Gulf continues and is glorified. There are hundreds of ‘Coaching Institutes’ that prepare migrants for life in the gulf (for a price) – most of the adverts are adorned with skyscrapers and palm trees. Kerala’s youth are so enamoured by the riches to be had in these foreign lands, that they are abandoning their farms enmasse. For a largely agricultural economy, this is awfully tragic.

    Traveling through Kerala, the occasional BMW with the Saudi license plate will zip past you, but the glamour aside, immigration comes with strings attached, and is far from an ideal solution to development. The EWI’s suggestion to promote immigration from Afghanistan to the Gulf seems to me, naive and misinformed.

  2. Indeed an interesting article with quite convincing arguments, however, I can’t agree with this one:

    “And while I have yet to come across previous evidence of it, immigration has proven to be helpful in poverty reduction and hence presents an opportunity to ensure human security.”

    deepti has already hinted at the problems. I can provide some more:

    Considering tourism, e.g., in countries like Egypt, immigration has not proven to be a source of poverty reduction or any beneficial, it’s more or less the other way round. As, for example, higher qualification jobs are basically “occupied” by foreigners, living in different areas than the locals and there’s hardly any mix-up or educational effect.

    I don’t know the case of Afghanistan in detail, but I can imagine similar tendencies, though tourism might be somewhat underdeveloped there. High foreign exchange proceeds might be established first and then really fair redestribution has to be ensured ….

    Thus enough to be dreamed for today!

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