Alwaght- As an Iranian parliamentary delegation wraps up its two-day visit to Afghanistan, remarks by its members suggest that the negotiations of the two sides have been highly constructive, and the diplomatic step taken by the Iranian lawmakers has managed to assist the foreign ministry’s push to bolster bilateral ties with Kabul.
After return of the delegation, Ibrahim Rezaee, the member of National Security Committee of the Iranian parliament, elaborated on the talks with the Taliban officials, saying: “The meetings discussed most important issues between Tehran and Kabul including fight against terrorism and drugs, arrangements for the Afghan migrants, Iran’s water share from Helmand River, joint investment, blockade of borders, and transfer of technology and experiences in industry, agriculture, and health, and the two sides stressed the need for increase of bilateral interactions and communications.”
He added that meeting with Shiite clergy of Afghanistan was another part of the Iranian delegation’s plan in the neighboring country.
Iran’s embassy in Kabul published a statement, saying: “Ayatollah Salehi, the head of Afghanistan’s Shiite Scholars Council, appreciated Iran’s care and cooperation with Afghanistan.”
Also, the Taliban Foreign Ministry confirmed yesterday that security, the fight against drugs and their smuggling, protection of borders, and boosting trade between the two countries were among the topics of discussion between the ministry and the Iranian parliamentary delegation.
The spokesman to Afghanistan Interior Ministry Abdul Matin Ghani held that the the “interior ministry wants good interactions and diplomatic, economic, and trade relations, and the interaction that takes place on the borders needs to be based on laws and principles.”
Over the past few months, the two countries have been engaged in talks to settle problems as tensions broke out on the border, followed by an Iranian complaint that Afghanistan blocked its water share from Hirmand River that flows to the eastern Iranian province of Sistan and Balouchestan.
As part of the talks in this relation, the Iranian lawmakers met acting Afghanistan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Motaqi. The FM said that Kabul “will not allow the enemies to damage good relations” between Iran and Afghanistan.
Also, Deputy interior Minister Nour Jalal Jalali in a meeting with the Iranian delegation appreciated Iran’s hosting of Afghanistan migrants for several decades, insisting that the Taliban will not allow anybody to use Afghanistan soil against neighbors.
Talks to restore economic ties with Afghanistan
Economic talks were another part of the Iranian delegation’s agenda in Kabul. Iranian embassy in Kabul stated that the lawmakers met Taliban’s Industry and Trade Minister Nouruddin Azizi who highlighted Afghanistan’s interest to enhance trade ties with Iran.
Khan Jan Alokozai, an Afghanistan trader and current vice president of Afghan chamber of commerce and industry, supported the trade talks between the two nations, telling the Iranian lawmakers that it is useful if foreign countries invest in Afghanistan and their investments create capacity and job for people in the mining and manufacturing sectors.
Currently, Iran is considered as one of the main foreign trade partners of Afghanistan. However, the trade relations between the two countries have not yet returned to their previous level after the Taliban assumed the power.
Later in June, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, Iranian ambassador to Afghanistan and the special presidential envoy to Afghanistan, maintained that trade volume with Afghanistan was $1.8 billion last year.
Last week, Akhondzadeh Abdulsalam Javad, the spokesmen to Afghanistan’s Trade and Industry Ministry, said that Afghanistan’s trade with Iran during the first four months of this year was $512 million, of which about $506 million are imports and $6 million are exports.
Iran ready to train Afghanistan medical staff
Media reports said that during a meeting with the Taliban Health Minister Qalandar Abbad, Iran voiced readiness to train Afghanistan medical staff.
Welcoming the offer, Abbad said Iran has so far offered substantial assistance to Afghanistan medical and health sector and “we are interested to see Afghanistan medical students study in specialized Iranian medical training centers.”
Abbad pointed to Iranian aids to build a hospital in Bamian province, adding that Iran has always cooperated with Afghanistan in health sector.
“Unfortunately, Bamian hospital was supposed to be inaugurated 10 years ago, but for a set of reasons, including the lack of cooperation of the former government, it was not completed. With the advent of the Islamic Emirate, it was completed within 7 months. We hope that an Iranian delegation attends its imagination,” Abbad continued.
Admitting Afghanistan’s shortage of female doctors, the health minister held that women in Afghanistan are being trained and at the same time providing services in medicine, nursing, and midwifery.
“We have had good achievements in this sector and among them we can mention the drop in maternal death rates,” he added.
In his May visit to Tehran, this Afghan official talked about an agreement with Iranian Health ministry to increase the capacity of education of Afghan medical students in Iran. According to the agreement, from now on, Afghan medical students will pass their specialization courses in medicine and pharmaceutics in Iranian medical universities.
According to the data provided by official authorities, more than 40 percent of foreign students studying in Iran are Afghans.
Earlier Mehdi Fayazi, Iran’s deputy science minister for international affairs, had talked about education of over 40,000 Afghanistan students in the Iranian universities, insisting that Iran has no limits for admission of Afghan students.
Today, many Iranian universities offer scholarships to Afghan students scoring and averaging high in tests.
According to data, annually 500 scholarships are granted to Afghan students in various majors. Iranian universities even independently sign agreements and MoUs with Afghanistan universities. Here are some examples:
- Agreement between Iranian Islamic Azad University with Afghanistan Technical Vocational Institute in February
- Agreement on provision of education and research services to Afghanistan’s Eshragh Institute of Higher Education by Ferdowsi University of Mashhad in February 2016
- MoU between Iran’s University of Mehr Alborz and Ghalib Medical University in Herat in April
- Two cooperation MoUs between Birjand University and universities of Ashna and Maiwand of Afghanistan in January
- Cooperation agreement between University of Lorestan and University of Badakhshan in February
But Iran’s service to Afghanistan education sector is not limited to academic cooperation and even more importantly, the Islamic Republic annually spends $335 million on education of Afghan nationals in Iran while the latter only receives $18.4 million annually as funding for education of foreign migrants, according to Fayazi, who is also the head of Iranian Ministry of Education’s international affairs and Iranian international schools.
The Iranian official further said that about 22,000 school classrooms are dedicated to foreign nationals and now over 556,000 Afghan students study in Iran.
It is noteworthy that in an executive order issued in 2015, Iran’s Supreme Leader Seyyed Ali Khamenei granted education access to children of all foreign nationals, including those lacking identity documents and living in Iran illegally.