Interview

Controversial Afghan-Pak intelligence MoU 'does not remain', says Hamid Karzai

Former President Hamid Karzai holds no official post, but he continues to be influential in Afghan politics and both President Ghani and CEO Abdullah have served in his cabinet. In an interview in Delhi to a select group of journalists that included Diplomatic Editor Suhasini Haidar, he spoke about the strain in Afghan-Pakistan ties as well as reviving the Indo-Afghan Strategic Partnership Alliance council.



Qun: India and Afghanistan relations seem strained at present. What is the view from Kabul, is there disappointment over the “list” of defence equipment that India has not delivered?



Karzai: When I signed a strategic partnership agreement (SPA) with India, the purpose was not only military but about a comprehensive relationship with India that we wanted. The “list” (of defence equipment and ammunition) was a small part of that, that we understood India could not deliver upon. The SPA was an intention of a broader relationship, not an expectation of delivery of goods.

Qun: What has changed in the India-Afghanistan relationship after the swearing in of President Ghani?



Karzai: Well, relations between the two countries are always people based. Our civilizational links are beyond governments. So no matter who is in power, relations remain strong. India has proved to be a steadfast friend of Afghanistan over the past 13 years. Thousands of youth who have been educated. More than 2billion dollars of assistance that paid for the Zaranj Delaram Highway, the Salma Dam, the new Parliament building which I hope the PM of India will iniaugurate soon, a thousand scholarships. No country has done for us what India has done for us, keeping its circumstances in mind. After my retirement as President, I have seen the massive impact of the education has had in Afghanistan. A critical mass of students, the middle class, the workforce of Afghanistan has been built by India through the educational opportunities it provides. We have a problem in the terror that affects both India and Afghanistan. And I hope the people of Pakistan realise it. Afghanistan has a lot of respect for the people of Pakistan, they received us and treated us well as refugees. The issue is with the military and intelligence there. I am sure India is seeking an end to all the violence of the kind we have seen in Gurdaspur or in Kabul recently.

Qun: Could we be specific about the Strategic Partnership? Since 2012, there has been no meeting of the Strategic Partnership Council. The Hindu had recently reported on how India has rebuffed Afghanistans proposals to hold the dialogue between foreign ministers….



Karzai: I would strongly recommend that India launch the strategic partnership council at the earliest. The Afghan government wants this dialogue, and India must start it.



Qun: Why do you think India isn’t accepting the offer for the dialogue? There have been four requests from the Afghan government this year, with no response.

Karzai: Let me not venture into this area.



Qun: You envisioned this strategic partnership in 2011. Today, all that it has come down to is 182 jeeps, 3 helicopters, and training a thousand plus ANA soldiers in the Indian Academy. Is this what you had envisioned 4 years ago?



Karzai: Not at all. In terms of reconstruction, India has done far more than anyone. In terms of education, India has gone far beyond anyone else. In terms of security assistance, India has been hesitant, for reasons known to India, which we in Afghanistan would hope would have been better. India should be more forthcoming and forward looking with the Afghan government and people much more. I know the Afghan government has asked for the launch of this strategic dialogue for years now, my recommendation that India do this as soon as possible, and carry the torch forward.



Qun: In India the question is, how can one trust the new government in Afghanistan? The President’s close ties with the Pakistani military, the recently signed MoU between the ISI and NDS (Afghan intelligence) …

Karzai: We also saw President Ghani speak of his frustrations with Pakistan just a few days ago. As I mentioned earlier, the relationship is based on the people. So India must engage with the Afghan government, thinking of the Afghan people. Things will change no doubt.



Qun: Are you saying President Ghani is moving away from the closeness with Pakistan?



Karzai: That is not for me to say. What I can say is India and Afghanistan are intrinsically linked in terms of security and prosperity. The options for India are limited in Afghanistan so we have to be together.

Qun: Despite that, when it comes to the Taliban talks recently, India was cut out of the picture entirely. The US and China were invited, but India was not taken into confidence about what the Afghan government was going to do….

Karzai: India is a huge country, it has relevance wordwide. For us in the region, it is not only a neighbour, and has an essential contribution for keeping peace in the region. Therefore if someone is working on a peace deal India must be part of it. For any peace talks to be successful, India, Iran and Russia must also be taken into confidence. But I would also ask India to be seeking that role. India should not be hesitant. India must play its role.

Qun: In the post Mullah Omar scenario, the Taliban has named Siraj Haqqani the deputy leader to Mullah Mansour. Given Haqqani’s role in attacks on Afghan security forces, what kind of impact will this have on the peace talks?



Karzai: Yes, many attacks have been attributed to the Haqqani network, and they must be investigated. Now that one of their leaders has been named the deputy leader of the Taliban, we as Afghans would hope that they will work for Afghanistan, and not work for any other power to undermine Afghanistan. The Taliban must begin to act as Afghans in Afghanistan’s interests, and that includes in our interests with India.

Security for us means security for India and security for India is good for us. This doesn’t mean that the Taliban or Afghans cant be friends with Pakistan. We are neighbours, we can have a brotherly relationship but a sovereign Afghanistan can have a good relationship with both, and cant take dictation from either. Pakistan must choose a peaceful coexistence with Afghanistan and not a destructive role. If it pursues a destructive role, it will have no bearing on us, as it has not had any in the past 13 years.

Qun: What about your own role? We have seen international reports that you are trying to undermine President Ghani. That you are an extra constitutional authority over the government, and the accusation that you are a part of an Indian design to re- establish its influence on Kabul.



Karzai: (Laughs) I wish India had a design! It’s none of that. I am fully behind the government. I fully support President Ghani. Of course, it is true, I have issued a statement about my concern over the MoU between Afghanistan intelligence NDS and the ISI. That was a national issue, and as a citizen of Afghanistan I have a right to speak that it was wrong. Other than that I am fully behind the government and my services are always available and I am a man of some experience.

Qun: Despite that the NDS-ISI MoU still remains…

Karzai: The MoU does not remain…No. We[President Ghani and I] had a conversation about that which will bear fruits as time will move on. It is something the Afghan people rejected, they have not accepted..It is clearly against Afghan interests.

Qun: So what was behind the MoU?

Karzai: I can’t say what was behind it, but can tell you it was not in the interests of Afghanistan. Not that we don’t want to be friendly with Pakistan, we want to be very friendly with the people of Pakistan but the ISI, the Pakistani intelligence is not a good example to emulate for Afghanistan. For that reason, that partnership was not right for us.

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Printable version | Mar 3, 2021 7:50:18 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/interview/interview-with-former-afghanistan-president-hamid-karzai/article7612242.ece

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