Review of Afghanistan and New Zealand Relations in 2018
With 2018 drawn to the end, I take the opportunity to reflect on what has been an eventful and productive year as Afghanistan’s non-resident Ambassador to New Zealand.
This reflection builds upon a relationship established over the years, with the appointment of first Afghan non-resident Ambassador to New Zealand, as well as New Zealand’s first non-resident Ambassador to Afghanistan in 2003. The history of diplomatic relations extends past these first formal appointments, with New Zealand’s military contributions in Afghanistan in 2001, and New Zealand’s participation in reconstruction efforts. Since the beginning of diplomatic relations, the two countries have seen a significant growth in their unique relationship, which was furthered in 2017 and 2018 in a range of mutually interested areas.
New Zealand acts as one of the main allies of the United State and NATO, alongside Australia, and the expanding of ties with these countries is essential for Afghanistan’s future. Political engagement between our two countries increased significantly in 2018, with a number of high-level visits taking place between dignitaries from both countries. For instance, there were a number of high-level visits, including my official visit to the New Zealand,Deputy Minister of Defence in January – as well as the New Zealand Defence Minister’s visit to Kabul in the following month. These visits also enhanced public outreach and people-to-people connections, which are so crucial in bringing together Afghan and New Zealander communities, and contributing to the rich multicultural layout – with nearly 17,000 Afghan migrants residing in New Zealand.
Military and security developments also grew significantly, reflecting New Zealand’s dedication to promoting peace and security. In line with this, New Zealand upheld its commitment to maintaining stability and security in Afghanistan by increasing the number of its military personnel posted there by 13. The New Zealand Defence Force also extended its military training deployments in September for next year.
As part of the enhanced interaction with the political structure, Afghanistan and New Zealand developed a Friendship Group at the Parliament of New Zealand in October.
In the midst of the various political, security and development agreements, it is important not to overlook what was an exciting year for culture and sports. The opportunities for these types of engagement between Australia and Afghanistan increased significantly throughout 2018, one highlight of which was through the Under 19 cricket match between New Zealand and Afghanistan.
Another highlight was Embassy’s hosting the 99th Independence Day celebrations in Wellington for the first time. This was a well-attended event, with officials from New Zealand’s Government including Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade, along with members of the Afghan community in New Zealand and diplomatic representatives, all of whom enjoyed musical performances and official addresses.
Furthermore, the 37th Flag Raising Celebration outside Auckland Town Hall was held on 15thNovember, with Consular Corps members including Afghanistan in which the Afghan National Flag was unfurled for the first time on the site. This was in addition to Afghanistan’s participation at Waitangi Day, showcasing the growing level of engagement between both countries and acknowledgement of their respective histories.
Another significant achievement in the Afghanistan-New Zealand relationship was that Afghanistan appointed its first Honorary Consul to New Zealand, Mr Yasin Hotaki, who commenced the position to facilitate consular related services of Afghanistan for those Afghans residing in New Zealand, with a greater focus on trade and business. Mr Hotaki is a resident in Auckland with consular jurisdiction throughout New Zealand.
Just as the new year is a time to reflect on what has passed, so too is it a time to look forward to the coming months and the opportunities and developments they bring. As New Zealand and Afghanistan go forth in their relationship, the focus will be on cooperation in the fields of security, agricultural development, growth of exports and education. The numerous achievements across all of the areas highlighted above set us in good standing for an equally, if not more successful 2019. As we progress with this year, myself and the staff at the Embassy of Afghanistan would like to extend our sincere thanks to the Government and people of New Zealand and to the Afghan communities across New Zealand and wish you all the best for 2019.