Amid efforts by the US and Russia to reach out to the Taliban for a reconciliation process in Afghanistan, former Afghan president Hamid Karzai said Thursday his country wants India to be on board for all peace efforts and also “do more” on its own, detached from other countries.
Speaking at the Raisina Dialogue here, Karzai also asserted Pakistan has the “most significant role” to play in bringing peace in Afghanistan.
The former president said India and Afghanistan share an “amazing and romantic relationship” which raises expectations to an “unrealistic level”.
“We want India to do a lot more in Afghanistan, do things entirely on its own, detached from all other countries. We have had one of the best relationships, and for that reason, expectations are high.
“So, we want India to be on board all the peace processes that seek to bring stability, institution-building and development in Afghanistan,” he said.
India has been one of the greatest contributors to Afghanistan and has already built Parliament, power lines, dams and roads and extended thousands of scholarships, he said.
Asked about US President Donald Trump’s recent remarks mocking New Delhi’s role in Afghanistan, Karzai said it was “hyped” by the media and he did not mean what was being reported.
“What he was alluding to was seeking India’s larger role in Afghanistan and support from India for peace and reconstruction, which is exactly what the Afghans want. Of course, he put it in different words,” Karzai said.
Trump recently took a jibe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for funding a “library” in Afghanistan, saying it is of no use in the war-torn country.
Major powers such as the US and Russia have been reaching out to the Taliban as part of efforts to push the stalled Afghan peace process.
In a significant move, India had sent two former diplomats in “non-official” capacity to a conference on Afghan peace process in Moscow in November which was attended by a high-level Taliban delegation.
The conference organised by Russia was attended by representatives of Afghanistan as well as several other countries including the US, Pakistan and China.
The US too had recently started a peace process and appointed special Afghan envoy Zalmay Khalilzad for it. He is currently in India to coordinate efforts to facilitate an intra-Afghan political settlement.
Karzai said he had “tremendous hope” for this renewed US efforts for peace in Afghanistan to succeed.
But peace process means it has to be totally and fundamentally based on intra-Afghan dialogue, seen clearly by all Afghan people, and one the one that enjoys support of neighbours.
“Afghanistan differentiates between peace and a deal between the US and Pakistan on Afghanistan,” he said.
“Pakistan has the most significant role to play to bring peace in Afghanistan. That role is recognised and we want Pakistan to play that role. We want a peace process in which, we have the US, India, Russia and China and Iran,” Karzai added.
On the “Afghan-owned and Afghan-led” peace process, he said, he meant a peace process in which the Taliban movement and other Afghans sit together in an intra-Afghan dialogue and “sort out the difficulties within our own country”.
“And this effort be backed by those who matter, in Afghanistan, in the region and internationally… And, once the settlement is done, Afghanistan gets what it wants — peace, sovereignty, dignity and friendship with other countries,” he said.
Asked about the Taliban issue, he said, “Talibans are also Afghans, sons of soil”.
“I am sure there are great patriotic forces among them who love Afghanistan and don’t want to be dictated by Pakistan,” he said, adding that a good, well-thought out peace process will bring the Taliban to expression of their free will.
On US troops presence in Afghanistan, he said, he believes “the US is not going to withdraw” and stay as part of a bilateral security agreement.
He said Russia and India historically have been closer to Afghanistan in shaping things in his country.
“I am among the Afghans who very strongly supports Russian role. I hope the US will engage with them and I believe Russians are willing to do that,” he said, adding that Russian presence in Afghanistan is what Afghans want and “is good for us”.