India should play larger role in Afghanistan: Hamid Karzai
Lauding India's efforts in rebuilding war-ravaged Afghanistan, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday said that New Delhi should now play a larger role in the country. He, however, did not elaborate on what kind of "larger" role was expected from India.
India is already providing developmental assistance by undertaking various projects in Afghanistan.
Speaking at the Raisina Dialogue conference here, Karzai said: "India and Afghanistan have a very romantic relationship. This romance often raises expectations to unrealistic levels. India has done a lot of developmental work in the country, and we expect that to continue."
Reacting to US President Donald Trump's jibe at India for its efforts in Afghanistan, Karzai said: "Trump didn't mean only that, media blew it up. Maybe he could have used better words, but basically, he said what even we want, which is the larger role should be played by India."
Reiterating the need for a peace process that is Afghan-led and Afghan-owned, Karzai said: "Peace in Afghanistan has to be predominantly based on an intra-Afghan Dialogue. We differentiate between a deal and an entrenched peace mechanism for Afghanistan. This should be backed by those who matter in region and internationally."
He further stressed on India's role in all the peace processes of Afghanistan. Noting the close ties between Russia and India for Afghanistan, the former Afghan President vouched for the support of Moscow's strong role in Afghanistan, adding that "Russians are willing to help Afghanistan."
"I am among those who believe the Americans are not going to leave Afghanistan, and stay at least in the form of the bilateral security agreement," he noted.
Noting the close ties between Russia and Afghanistan, Karzai underlined: "Russia is a historically one of the closest to Afghanistan. They are a huge power. Tremendous cultural and political relationship. We can't do without Russia."
Elaborating more on the Afghan-led peace process, Karzai said: "It should be backed by those in region who support Afghanistan. Peace, sovereignty, dignity, and relationships with other countries; that's what the peace process should be about. There have been many peace efforts."
"I want to be a visionary to contribute to stability and peace in the region. India-China co-operation for Afghanistan is the best option," he remarked.
Belittling Pakistan for "hindering" the peace process in Afghanistan, Karzai said Islamabad's interference was "almost brutal", adding "all efforts were made to destroy Afghanistan's infrastructure, society and the country." He, however, praised Pakistan for providing food and shelter to the displaced Afghans.
"The Pakistani people gave us their homes and shared their food with us. The people of Afghanistan are eternally grateful to them. However, we are also unhappy with Pakistani government and their military. They behaved the opposite way to how the Pakistani people were. Interfering in Afghanistan was almost brutal, and all efforts were made to destroy the nation's infrastructure, value, culture and society. So, we have two different approaches - to people and then to government," he remarked.
"They (Pakistan) supported extremism and violence. We know Pakistan is significant in the peace process of Afghanistan. But we have seen what dealing with America and Pakistan on Afghanistan means. We don't want to deal only with them. We want others like India and Iran too," he added.
He expressed hope that the Taliban would be a part of the peace process "sooner or later inevitably." "The Taliban are Afghans. We hope one day we can bring them together for peace. War is adding to extremism in Afghanistan. Peace will lead to moderation," Karzai said.
"We should concentrate on a peace deal that enhances role of women in Afghanistan. Women will not have a role in the process itself," Karzai added.
Talking about Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad's current two-week multi-nation trip to India, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan for facilitating an Afghan peace process, the former Afghan President hoped that the initiative would bear fruit in this visit.
"We have hopes that this will succeed in bringing peace in Afghanistan. He (Khalilzad) is an Afghan and understands what Afghans want. This peace process should be transparent for Afghans and should be acceptable for friends in the region. Three main efforts for peace have been undertake in the past four years such as 'Quad' with China, Russia in Moscow format, all launched by Khalilzad. There is tremendous hope for this process. The meaning of peace for us is that it should be based on intra-Afghan dialogue," he elaborated.
Speaking about Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's "Naya Pakistan" vision, Karzai wished the cricketer-turned-politician to achieve in his endeavours.