Future Afghani diplomats trained

Updated: 2014-10-21 11:37

By Cai Chunying in Washington(China Daily USA)

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Future Afghani diplomats trained

Wu Xi (at podium), minister of the Chinese Embassy in Washington, addresses a group of young diplomats from Afghanistan, who are participating in a training program co-sponsored by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the US State Department in Washington on Monday. Cai Chunying / China Daily

As Afghanistan celebrates its new president Ashraf Ghani and his government, China and the United States are joining hands to help prepare young Afghan diplomats for a productive future.

Fifteen entry-level diplomats from Afghanistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs started a two-week training program in Washington on Monday. Last May, the same group spent 15 days in China in a parallel training program.

The Afghan Diplomats Training Program, now in its third year, is a partnership between the US Department of State and the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, an outcome of the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. It has become one of the highlights of US-China cooperation.

US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP) Dan Feldman welcomed the group, aged 22 to 30, to the State Department at a special ceremony.

"It's very exciting this moment in Afghanistan. You being the visible demonstration of what the Afghan society and people and country stand for is going to have a particular role in defining this for the rest of the global community," said Feldman, who, while serving as deputy under the late SRAP ambassador Richard Holbrooke, created and launched the program in 2012 and has since traveled to China multiple times to fine tune it.

"The US and China share a common interest in Afghanistan's peace, stability and prosperity. We all want to see you and the Afghan people succeed. This is the best symbolic demonstration of what we can all do together," Feldman said.

For the next two weeks, the group will learn about US policy regarding Afghanistan, US-China relations, public diplomacy and how foreign policy is developed in the US, with a goal towards developing diplomatic, communications and management skills.

They will also visit the Chinese and Afghan embassies, meet with diplomats and scholars from various think tanks, practice diplomatic simulations at the University of Maryland, and visit the United Nations and Afghan consulate in New York City.

While in Beijing in May, they learned about China's culture, economics and foreign policy. The group also spent five days in China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, which borders Afghanistan.

Zuhai Salim, the only woman in the group, said she enjoyed her experience in China thoroughly.

"I found China marvelous, the food, the culture, the history, the friendly people we related to on a day-to-day basis. And, the program there is really comprehensive and useful for us and for my country. It has enhanced our capacity as diplomats," said Salim, 23, whose mother is a member of the Afghan Parliament and father a counselor to the Afghan minister of counternarcotics.

Complaining about the largely negative image of Afghanistan in the world, Salim said her goal is to bring a more positive image of her country by devoting herself to public diplomacy.

"I applied to this program and came here hoping to present a better image of my country, that it really supports women who want to take part in different areas in the country," said Salim during an interview.

Ahmad Nawid Ariaye, the group's leader, expressed his hopes for Afghanistan receiving more help from China.

"China and Afghanistan are neighboring countries. We hope the Chinese government can get more involved in Afghan issues, particularly security," said Ariaye, adding that he is very optimistic about his country's future under its new leadership.

Minister from the Chinese Embassy in Washington Wu Xi extended a warm welcome to the group. She said the young Afghans reminded her of her own experience as a young diplomat in Iraq more than 20 years ago.

"It will be remarkable if young people like you can stand up and shoulder your responsibilities in making Afghanistan a more stable and prosperous country, " said Wu.

She called the program "a tangible outcome of China-US collaboration in the Asian and Pacific region and a good example of how the new type of major country relationship between China and the US can contribute to the region".

The group also heard from their own countryman, Afghan Minister Counselor and Charge D'affaires Mirwais Nab.

Nab said the training program in the past two years has worked very well, turning participants into "very effective diplomats in key political and consular positions across the globe" representing Afghanistan, including four that now work for the Afghanistan Embassy in Washington.

Nab also pledged that his government is committed to increasing investment opportunities for Chinese and US joint-venture companies and he hopes the training program will open doors to joint cooperation in agriculture and healthcare in the future.

"Investing in education and economic development are the key factors to fight the root cause of terrorism and extremism," said Nab.