29 July :The Indo-Afghanistan Joint Working Group headed by Mr. Asif Rahimi, Deputy Minister for Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD) had an interactive meeting with the Minister of Panchayati Raj Mr. Mani Shankar Aiyar today. In the meeting both sides agreed on the fundamental guiding principle “all activities, programmes under the MoU should be contextual to the needs of the Governments of Afghanistan and India. It should aim at attaining a coordinated approach to the development of coherent local governance in the two countries including their institutions concerned”. Speaking on the occasion Mr. Mani Shankar Aiyar said that a 15-point programme of collaboration has been agreed to. It was agreed to operationalise the MoUs at the earliest possible. It was also agreed to hold a workshop in Afghanistan in September 2008 and meeting of the Joint Forum on Local Governance to be co-chaired by Minister of Panchayati Raj, Government of India and Minister for rural Rehabilitation and Development and DG & Minister, IDLG, Government of Afghanistan in the JWG will work on training need analysis, framework for capacity building, design of training courses, training of trainers, conducting the training courses, development of resource centers, exposure visits of elected local representatives including women and other functionaries, networking of institutions, support to policy formulation and drafting of legislation for sub-national governance etc.
At initial stage the Joint Working Group will meet frequently as per dates mutually agreed by both sides. Talking to the media Mr. Asif Rahimi said that the meeting has been very productive and the cooperation between India and Afghanistan in the field of local governance is coming at a time when Afghanistan is going through a very special phase. This will help in establishing structure of local governance in Afghanistan for decades to come. He said he was thankful to India for agree to do independent assessment for local governance in Afghanistan. This assessment would be crucial for Government of Afghanistan to decide how to proceed in matters of local governance.
President of Afghanistan is likely to visit India in the first week of August wherein discussions in the area of local governance are also expected. Earlier the Afghanistan delegation visited Faridabad, Haryana on 24th July 2008 and interacted directly with the elected members and official of PRIs and District Administration.
From 25th July to 27th July 2008 five-members of the Joint Working Group from Afghanistan visited National Institute of Rural Development (NIRD), Hyderabad. The team of the Joint Working Group had a detailed discussion on the activities being undertaken by the National Institute of Rural Development and also had a detailed discussion on the draft MoU. The draft MoU was finalized and signed between the Head, Afghan Institute of Rural Development (AIRD) and Director General, NIRD on 26th July 2008. The team of the Joint Working Group also visited various Departments of the National Institute of Rural Development and Rural Technology Park developed by NIRD. The team also visited Centre for Good Governance, Hyderabad. On 27th July 2008 the team of the Joint Working Group visited a Gram Panchayat called China Golkonda Gram Panchayat in Rangareddy district. The group had a detailed interaction with the members of the Gram Panchayats regarding the functioning of the gram panchayat. The group also had an interaction with the Self-Help Group (SGH) and also saw the on-going project on sewerage being implemented by the village panchayat. The team also visited the mandal panchayat office and interacted with the President and the members of the mandal panchayat. The team returned to Delhi on 27th July 2008.
The MoU has prescribed constitution of a Joint Working Group (HEG) co-chaired by the Secretary to the Government of India, Ministry of Panchayati Raj and the Deputy Minister MRRD, Government of Afghanistan. The first meeting of the JWG was held at Krishi Bhawan on 28th July 2008. The Indian side was led by Shri A.N.P. Sinha, Secretary, Ministry of Panchayati Raj and the Afghan side by Mr. Asif Rahimi, Deputy Minister, MRRD, Government of Afghanistan.
On 28th July 2008 the formal meeting of the Joint Working Group co-chaired by Secretary, Ministry Panchayati Raj, Government of India and Deputy Minister, Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, Government of Afghanistan was held in New Delhi. The Joint Working Group was briefed on the various schemes/programmes being undertaken by the Government of Afghanistan and the various programmes handled by the Panchayati Raj Institutions in India. The Joint Working Group finalized the future activities for mutual cooperation on the basis of the MoU signed by the Government of Afghanistan with IIPA, PRIA, ISS and NIRD.