Hamid Karzai, the former president of Afghanistan has cautioned India not to follow the US’ approach to Afghanistan as it may just be a ‘bigger strategic game’, and only work in interest of both India and Afghanistan.
Hamid Karzai, who for a decade was the president of Afghanistan, at a press meet in London on Wednesday said:
India is a friend and an ally and a traditional civilizational friend of our country but I want India to continue its traditional wise man approach to the region. It’s too deep a civilization to be taken away by an American design…too big a nation to be in any temporary arrangement with this or that country.
This friendly warning comes just days after India formed an alliance with the US in the region. US President Donald Trump outlined a new US approach to Afghanistan in August with a call for further involvement of India and sharp criticism of Pakistan. Although India has ruled out the possibility of deploying troops in Afghanistan, it promised to extend development and medical assistance in the country to which it has extended around $3 billion in aid to date.
India has an extremely high stake in the region and in Afghanistan and should therefore have its own approach to Afghanistan in the region in which peace in Afghanistan should be the overall objective, in which peace in the region is the objective…and in which coordinated action between India and Afghanistan against extremism is the objective.
Although Hamid was open to the US-India partnership only if US concerns were genuine, but he added, “I suspect this is not the case.”
Reiterating his concerns over the fact that the policy formulated by the US president would rather go on to bring suffering on the Afghan commoners than extending peace over the region, Karzai said:
Is this policy a continuation of the forever war in which Afghans are the main sufferers — its land, its soil, its people, its environment…and do we want a forever war? And how come it took the US 16 years to recognize what was going on in Pakistan?Advertisement
Every day Afghans told the US of the sanctuaries outside our borders. The United States knew they were there but couldn’t do much because Pakistan was an ally.
He further pinpointed at the policy as not “aimed at ending extremism” but rather being a “bigger strategic game in the region in which Pakistan does not seem to fit in the US designs or Pakistan has taken a different path to what they were doing in the past: they were an ally of the US, all along especially the two of them in promoting religious extremism. Now Pakistan has an economic integration plan, more closely aligned with China. Its more a power game than a fight against extremism that has re-aligned US politics in the region.”
Karzai was quoted saying:
The shift in the US policy is not to fight extremism but to bring pressure on Pakistan for other reasons. We don’t join that. We have no ill will to Pakistan – we want Pakistan to do well, we consider Pakistan a neighbor…for all the difficulties we have with it.
Although he congratulated India on being a true friend of Afghanistan and going out of its way to help his country during difficult times, he was critical of the influential role that the US approach had had on its approach, citing efforts by Afghanistan towards the Manmohan Singh administration for help in its own military build up. In fact, he believes that India’s decision not to at that stage, he believes, was influenced by the US being against it:
It is this matter that makes us sensitive to the new alliance. If the U.S. changes course will India then follow again? India should not be moving from one pole to another. India should have a steady policy of a constant alliance with Afghanistan based on the fundamental interests of the two countries. I want an independent Indian-Afghan relationship…from our perspective when the US did not want us to have relations with India we did not conduct our policy towards India based on the wishes of the US …we conducted our own and that is what we expect of India towards us.
In saying so, he also called for greater amity between China and India in their approach to prevail peace over the region:
These two vast massive civilization and entities worldwide…their friendship and their cooperation will benefit us immensely and the region…and they should both avoid falling into a trap set by others in the competition that is created…it is in this view that I am not happy with the new US strategy because that strategy lessons the possibility of a broader India-Chinese cooperation.Advertisement
We want to be friends with the US we want to be allies for the US…but I have as an Afghan citizen I have immense opposition against the way they fight extremism, which is adding to the fires of extremism.
Before signing off, he said that the best way to deal with the Taliban at this juncture is to reach peace with them rather than waging a war against them:
It is too late to talk of defeat…defeat means causing war in Afghanistan on a higher larger scale… military solutions are no more an option for us. The Taliban are Afghans and we must sit down with them and have peace with them.