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Pakistan wants Afghanistan to break off relations with India, deny it access to Central Asia—Hamid Karzai

Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai (IANS photo)

Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai has said Pakistan is not in favour of good relations between India and Afghanistan, and wants "no bilateral trade and access to Central Asia for India”. Karzai said that Pakistan should stop dictating to Kabul about its friendship with New Delhi, and respect the fact that Afghanistan is a sovereign country.

“Pakistan actually would like Afghanistan to break off relations with India. That is impossible. If we give in to this, we would give up our sovereignty and independence. If we want to send our police or our army or our boys and girls to India for training because it is good for our country, we should do so,” the former president of Afghanistan said. He added that India wants to be a true friend to Afghanistan and is helping the country to build its infrastructure and health facilities.

In an interview with the German publication Der Spiegel, Karzai blamed Pakistan for “messed up affairs” in his country, “Pakistan wants to exert strategic influence in Afghanistan through the Taliban. Just look at our position on the map. Afghanistan is the most strategically important place in today’s global contest for supremacy. At the same time, Pakistan started using the Taliban to further its own agenda in Afghanistan. Both the Afghan Republic and the Taliban are victims of these external forces. That is why we are suffering.”

He said that if Ghani’s government could bring the warring groups together “we would support it.” Karzai pointed out that a peaceful Afghanistan is of interest to all its neighbours but particularly Pakistan, where the Taliban leadership has been headquartered and with whom Afghanistan has had a troubled relationship even as Pakistan still hosts 1.5 million Afghan refugees.

Karzai, who served as Afghanistan’s president from 2001 to 2014, does not have a formal role in the negotiations but is seen as an important player. Karzai is an important member of Afghanistan’s National Reconciliation Council, headed by Abdullah Abdullah. He is consulted routinely by Washington's peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, and has been instrumental in bringing political opponents to the table.

Talking about supremacy games being played by the US, Karzai said, “around 2005, 2006, when the extremist terrorist attacks started – we talked to the U.S. about the different causes of the violence. We knew that these attacks were being organized by intelligence in Pakistan and carried out by the Taliban. The US confirmed this independently, telling us: Yes, the violence is coming from Pakistan, and yes, the Taliban's sanctuaries are there. But instead of investigating the root cause of the violence and going after it, Washington started to fund Pakistan's military. Former U.S. President Donald Trump once announced that America had paid $35 billion to Pakistan over these past 19 years. This contradictory policy cost thousands of Afghans lives – troops and civilians alike. Tell me, how was Afghanistan supposed to come to peace?”

Karzai made it clear that unfortunately, the key to war and peace for his country, however, lies with Pakistan.

“The Pakistani offensive is in full swing right now. There is fighting going on. But Pakistan must know that it cannot win by force. They may kill us. They may send us bombs, they may send us extremists, but that does not kill our spirit. Dominating Afghanistan from the outside has never worked. It didn't work for the British, it didn't work for the Soviets, and it didn't work for the United States, even with all of its resources. And the Pakistanis will not succeed either. Right now, we are closing ranks in Afghanistan and organizing resistance. So, my appeal to Pakistan is: Let's be reasonable. Let's start a civilized relationship between our two countries.” 

Karzai says the Troika comprising the US, Russia and China wants to continue helping Afghanistan in the peace process and in future. Pakistan has also been invited to join. There is a great opportunity in that. But a strategic partnership between Afghanistan and Pakistan can only exist if there is peace and stability in Afghanistan, if the trust deficit is eliminated, and “if Pakistan shows itself to be a good neighbour.”

Interestingly only last week, the Afghan president Ashraf Ghani had in an interview to the same publication Der Spiegel alleged that Pakistan operates an organised system of support for the Taliban insurgents, who receive logistics and financial support from there, besides carrying out recruitment. 

In retaliation, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi lost his cool and said: “I want to ask Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani: On the one hand you are asking Pakistan to help, but, on the other hand, your employee levels allegations against Pakistan and criticizes the Pakistani institutions. What do you want?”

(The full interview can be found here)

Also read: It is a country I love, and I will die defending says Afghan President Ghani