Indian Decade

Karzai on India and Pakistan

The Afghan president spoke out on all the major issues – in a recent ‘off-the-record’ meeting.

There were some insightful observations made during a discussion on the topic ‘Afghanistan Today and Tomorrow,’ at the Indian think-tank Observer Research Foundation on September 17. Noted journalist Saeed Naqvi shared experiences from his recent two-week tour of Afghanistan, and the highlight was his informal hour-long meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Naqvi informed the gathering at ORF that although his conversation with Karzai was off-the-record, the leader was willing to make an exception and be quoted on three ‘issues’: 1. The US not targeting sanctuaries of terror in Pakistan; 2. India not applying enough pressure on Washington to target terror sanctuaries in Pakistan; 3. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh needing to have a ‘heart-to-heart’ talk with the Pakistani leadership so that the Pakistani leaders, civilian and military, do not sprint to the US with stories of ‘Indian plots.’

Naqvi thus went on to quote Karzai saying he wants the Indian leadership to put pressure on the US ‘to stop Pakistani mischief’ and that by not doing so, it is in effect helping Pakistan. Interestingly however, Naqvi also quoted close aides of the former head of the Afghan National Security Services, Amrullah Saleh, suggesting that although in the past ‘the US wanted to defeat the Taliban,’ its aim has changed now to simply wanting to weaken them and that ‘for his own reasons, perhaps Karzai too, does not wish to defeat them.’

Karzai is known to be a friend of India. He studied in India and lived in this country for many years. However, his recent remarks have muddied the waters. His threat to join the Taliban if the US continues to work against him has created further distrust. As a diplomatic correspondent, I can safely assert that India has been pressuring the US to go hammer and tongs against all aspects of the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan, without differentiating between ‘good’ terrorists and ‘bad’ terrorists. (For years, India has wryly been telling Washington that all terrorists are necessarily ‘bad’ and that there is no such thing as a ‘good’ terrorist. The US, however, is mainly concerned with the so-called ‘bads’ who are involved in launching strikes against American interests in Afghanistan and elsewhere.)

As for Karzai’s reported suggestion that the Indian leadership should have a ‘heart-to-heart’ chat with the Pakistani leaders so that they do not rush to the US with stories of ‘Indian plots,’ Indian diplomats here insist that they have been having such dialogues for years.

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My opinion here is that India needs to engage the Pakistani military and improve relations. It’s no secret that the Pakistani military has been calling the shots since inception and today’s situation is no different. A true Indo-Pak entente can come about only when militaries of the two nations have better relations.