The US decision to withdraw from the combat role in Afghanistan by the end of 2014 appears final, but it is a decision driven by domestic US considerations. It also brings together three transitions in Afghanistan – a political transition to a post-Karzai government, a security transition from a US led ISAF to Afghan National Security Forces, and an economic transition where withdrawal of a large expatriate community will contract the local economy in the near term, leaving it dependent on external assistance. How prepared is Afghanistan to face these three transitions and how committed is the international community to continue supporting Afghanistan during this period? Is reconciliation with the Taliban or parts of it possible? Can the key regional and global players come up with a shared perspective which can point to the emergence of an independent, united, secure, stable and democratic Afghanistan which can act as a bridge between South and Central Asia?
About the Speaker
Born on 5th February 1953, Ambassador Rakesh Sood joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1976 after completing Post Graduate studies in Physics at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University. He subsequently pursued Post Graduate studies in Economics and Defence Studies.
He has served in the Indian missions in Brussels, Dakar, Geneva, and Islamabad in different capacities and also as Deputy Chief of Mission in Washington. In Delhi, Ambassador Sood served as Director (Disarmament) and set up the Disarmament and International Security Affairs Division which he led for eight years till end of 2000 as Joint Secretary (D&ISA), in the Foreign Ministry. During this period, he was responsible for multilateral disarmament negotiations (CWC, CTBT and the BWC verification protocol etc), bilateral dialogues on CBMs with Pakistan, strategic dialogues with other countries especially after the nuclear tests in 1998, and India’s role in the ARF. As India’s first Ambassador – Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament at the United Nations, in Geneva, from 2001 to 2004, he also chaired a number of Working Groups including the negotiations on landmines and cluster munitions. Ambassador Sood served on UNSG’s Disarmament Advisory Board (2002-03)
Subsequently, he has served as Ambassador to Afghanistan from January 2005 to January 2008, Ambassador to Nepal from April 2008 to August 2011 and was Ambassador of India to France from August 2011 to March 2013 when he retired from the diplomatic service after a career spanning 36 years.
In September 2013, Ambassador Rakesh Sood was appointed Special Envoy of the Prime Minister (SEPM) for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Issues; he held this position till May 2014.
Mushahid Ali, Senior Fellow, RSIS