Advisor to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz on Saturday called on countries like India and Iran to emulate Pakistan’s stated policy of non-interference in Afghanistan and not to fight proxy wars.
Speaking at the Conference on Pakistan–Afghanistan and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) withdrawal, organized by the South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) in Islamabad, he said that Pakistan has no favourites in Afghanistan and its policy of non-interference in Afghanistan affairs has helped improve bilateral relations. The release of Taliban prisoners had contributed to efforts of peace and reconciliation, he added.
Later in response to a question on Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai and India agreeing to intensify defence and security cooperation, Mr. Aziz said, as far as he knew, India had been requested to help train Afghanistan's security forces. He said there must be no security support to any group inside Afghanistan, and India, Iran and others should also follow the policy of non-interference in Afghanistan’s affairs. India’s security deal with Afghanistan does not come in the definition of a proxy war. India is helping to train security forces, it was not a selective policy of supporting certain groups, he pointed out.
He said Pakistan, like others, was willing to train the Afghan Army. It was against any interference or any favourites and that means there should be no security support to any groups. But he said that Pakistan alone cannot follow this policy.
He said 2014 presents both challenges and opportunities for Afghanistan and three kinds of transition — political, economic and security-related. He said the issue of the Bilateral Security Agreement and residual presence of the ISAF forces was still in the process of being sorted out. The important thing was to recognise that there is no military solution to Afghanistan and to let the people decide. No one should fill the security vacuum from outside, he cautioned.
He said there should be no outside interference too in the 2014 elections there and a timely, transparent and credible election was vital for the future of Afghanistan. However, he said, during transition one cannot ignore the Afghan dependence on foreign assistance for security forces and once there is a reduction in that there would be an economic fallout, unemployment and even migration. He said the promises made to continue support to Afghanistan till 2017 must be honoured. However, reconciliation efforts are slow and inconclusive and while there were great expectations from the Doha process, Pakistan was making efforts to promote talks between the Afghan High Peace Council and the Taliban which was not working so far, he indicated.
Pakistan’s perspective is clear, he said there is no return to the civil war of the 1990s and continued conflict in Afghanistan would manifest itself in many ways and the spillover of that could seriously affect Pakistan.
He reiterated that Pakistan wanted a stable Afghanistan and it was placing strong value on constructive engagement with India and Afghanistan. Pakistan can exert its influence but cannot control any
group, he added. He called for a sustained engagement of the international community with Afghanistan as the cost of abandoning it was too risky.
Later talking to the media Mr. Aziz said he didn’t foresee a total reconciliation effort in Afghanistan nor an outbreak of major violence. However he pointed out that talks between the Taliban and the Afghanistan government were not making much headway.
To a question on India, he said there were individual meetings planned between the commerce Ministers and a power agreement in the offing. He was optimistic about the composite dialogue resuming after the general elections in India next year.