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US peace plan may work if Afghans are ‘on board’; Karzai

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s interview with CGTN

Yang Rui hosted the interview in (Dialogue)

Host: Welcome to our program your Excellency.

Hamid Karzai: Good to see you.

Host: What is your mission?

Hamid Karzai: I have been busy as I was busy on issues before that, trying to bring peace to Afghanistan. Trying to have a nice country in Afghanistan and friendly with the neighbors and the rest of the world. That has been the mission.

Host: Peace is so important for the post war reconstruction in the war torn country of Afghanistan but how difficult is this process?

Hamid Karzai: It is difficult, unfortunately, because until recently we never saw any effort for peace in Afghanistan by the United States.

Host: That sounds ridiculous.

Hamid Karzai: Yes. Because they were bent on getting things through fighting and it was proven not to be working. Extremism with seventeen years of their war making in Afghanistan did not go away, but increased. On top of it, also we saw the arrival of the IS in Afghanistan. So it was a futile exercise with so much cost to Afghanistan, to the region and everybody.

Now just recently the United States has launched a new initiative for peace in Afghanistan and we hope it succeeds as much as I was against their war making in Afghanistan, I have now given support to their peace efforts in Afghanistan. But the latest U.S. initiative for peace in Afghanistan will bear fruits only when they fully keep the Afghan people on board, and in charge and when they genuinely seek cooperation from major powers who are our neighbors. China for example, is our neighbor, and a superpower in the world. Russia, at the same way, and our neighbors as well. Therefore, a successful U.S. effort for peace will mean Afghanistan doing its part fully and independently and the U.S. seeking the cooperation of China that will bring us peace and I’m sure that if the U.S. extends the hands of cooperation to China, China will support it and Russia will support it as well.

Host: Do you think Afghanistan could have enough investment in the reconstruction and where does the investment actually come from?

Hamid Karzai: With peace in Afghanistan, Afghanistan will have plenty of investment in reconstruction. China will be the first to do that. China was the first to do that when Afghanistan was more stable some years ago. China invested nearly $5 billion and even more in a copper field in Afghanistan. China invested in the oil and gas industries in Afghanistan and lots of other areas.

Host: What about the return of Chinese investment in your country? Because our viewers and netizen are so seriously concerned about business deals. In one hand a humanitarian relief, of course, is part of the mission and on another hand it is an investment.

Hamid Karzai: Without the slightest doubt, definitely, when peace returns to Afghanistan, so will be the profits on investment to those who have invest in Afghanistan. So I can assure the people of China, our friends in China that with peace in Afghanistan Chinese investment in Afghanistan will have tremendous returns for China.

Host: A skeptical media in the west would always follow what happens between India and China. Our Indian friends always say “look Afghanistan is part of their turf in the understatement” do you agree?

Hamid Karzai: We are a central Asian country, we are a south Asian country and we are a west Asian country. We are a central Asian country because of tremendous civilization links with central Asia and historic links with central Asia and geographical collection to central Asia. We are a south Asian country because of tremendous links with south Asia and geographical links. We are west Asian country because of our historic links with Iran, the language, the religion and all that. We are also very much part of the Chinese collection. China is a neighbor of Afghanistan. China has more than 85km border with Afghanistan in the north-east of the country. So we are nobody’s turf. We are a country of our own and we have relationships of our own. We want of tremendously good relationship with India and India has been a tremendous help to Afghanistan. But we are also a good friend of China and China has been a great friend of Afghanistan, so what we seek is cooperation on Afghanistan not competition on Afghanistan.

Host: Let’s look at the role of a Pakistan. We have Pakistani Taliban and the Taliban in Afghanistan and basically for the Chinese viewers they have no idea about the relationship between these two Taliban organizations. Obviously Islamabad is part of the peace process.

Hamid Karzai: Islamabad is very much part of the peace process because it is very much part of the problem as well. The reason is that the United States and Pakistan unfortunately historically have been together promoting extremism in Afghanistan. This has been the Soviet Union invade in Afghanistan. The Americans in order to weaken and defeat the Soviet Union, planned to use  religious extremism as a tool against the former Soviet Union and Pakistan and some Arab countries unfortunately joined hands with the United States in the promotion of extremism in Afghanistan with massive costs for the Afghan people and eventually for the region and for Pakistan itself.  The Pakistani people have now suffered as closely as much as Afghans have suffered. So there is tremendous reason for Pakistan for its own safety and security for its own prosperity to begin to distance itself from the use of extremism and cooperate with China and Afghanistan.

Host: Everybody knows in this country that Pakistan remains an old friend of China for years. On the one hand Beijing attaches a great importance to the post war reconstruction in your country as I said earlier. On the other hand you said Islamabad is part of the problem there. But this is contradictor against each other. How can Islamabad say one thing and do another?

Hamid Karzai: This has been happening for a long time, saying some thing and doing another thing. But on the question of China’s friendship with Pakistan, China and Pakistan being always friends, we see it as a positive, we see it as good. We want China’s friendship with Pakistan to expand, to deepen. We are also a great friend of China and a good neighbor of China. And China has been a tremendous ally and supporter to Afghanistan as well. Therefore, Chinese friendship with Pakistan, we see, as an asset towards positive. And for this reason, we have been seeking China’s participation and contribution to improve relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and together all the three of us, effectively fighting against extremists.

Host: And do you think Afghanistan has fallen victim to the competition, or regional competition between Islamabad and New Delhi?

Hamid Karzai: Yes, it has unfortunately very much. It has fallen victim to that competition.

Host: In which way?

Hamid Karzai:  In ways of negative forces activated in Afghanistan both ways. We are also victim of our strategic location and circumstances. Because China is our neighbor and China is a superpower and the second biggest economy in the world and soon going to be the first economy of the world and Russia another superpower and a neighbor of Afghanistan and there is Iran, so the presence of the United States many consider to be in relationship to that strategic location of Afghanistan and the way they have conducted themselves to us visibly a presence in order to watch or do things in the neighborhood that extremely important to them as well. That has negative fallout for Afghanistan so we proposed to the United States that the only way that they can stay safely in Afghanistan and for longer term it is for them to be a cooperative mood with China and Russia that negative competition will not make their stay in Afghanistan viable.

Host: Your Excellency, now both Pakistan and India had been recruited by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. From the point of view of an observer in Kabul what do you think of this platform of SCO in addressing the regional issues because SCO is such an important part in peace and stability particularly in the process of development in central Asia which is important part of the Eurasian continent or strategy. So what do you make of the SCO place in cementing the solidarity of the local powers?  

Hamid Karzai: Very important. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is an effective instrument for stability and cooperation in our larger region. And we’re glad that all the three major powers of the region China, Russia and India, are part of it. So is Pakistan, so are countries of central Asia — Turkey as well and Iran. And Afghanistan is an observer. So India’s joining the SCO, we see it as a positive development and we hope that through the cooperative working within this organization, Afghanistan will be one of the first beneficiaries of SCO.

Host: And what do you think of the partnership between Moscow and Beijing? Because Russia and China reach out to each other through the SCO, which as I said earlier is an important part of the Eurasian vision and the president Putin calls for the implementation of his Eurasian economic union. We have the belt and road initiative. These two bring vision from the two politician Mr. Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart had been integrated with each other is not necessarily a conflict. Right?

Hamid Karzai: We attach high value to Chinese Russian cooperation and friendship not only for the stability of Eurasian, central Asian, south Asian and west Asian region but also for global balance and stability. So it is a very different scale of relationship the Chinese Russian relationship regionally and globally.  For Afghanistan we are by all standards a very keen observer of the Chinese Russian friendship and cooperation. We believe that this cooperation is one of the best hopes for us, and for the return of peace and stability in Afghanistan. 

Host: Very quickly. Your Excellency, do you think of the special strategic partnership between Moscow and Beijing together will be an effort to tip the balance across the pacific ocean or the Indo-pacific ocean because president Trump and his team vow to launch a kind of campaign that may not necessarily be compared in parallel to the cold war. But from the beginning of the trade Standoff as well as other efforts to restrict the influence of China by the Trump administration. Do you believe China and Russia taking side together will help restrict the assertiveness and ambition of Washington at this moment.

Hamid Karzai: Well, effectively we are in a cold war. We are already there. We are already in a new world order. We are already in a multipolar order. We are not moving that direction. We are already there. China is now a confirmed global power. Russia is a confirmed global power. India is rising as well, so we are already in a multipolar setup. Now the Chinese Russian cooperation on global strategic issues is definitely a balancer and a shifter in the power play that we share on. Yes. To answer it positive Chinese – Russian relationship does have impacts in that regard.

Host: And of course Chinese leaders will do whatever they can do to avert a repeat of a cold war while we seek to pursue an inclusive world economic order not necessarily at the cost of the existing one.

Hamid Karzai: Yes.

Host: Let’s take a closer look at a very embarrassing issue. That is drawn scathing criticism from the western media about our western frontier Xinjiang Muslims they are brothers and sisters.

Hamid Karzai: They are.

Host: But the way we help maintain the stability in Xinjiang through a lot of attention from the world media.  I am not taking about all Muslims but the extremists among the Muslims may constitute a threat to the stability of this region in China. So do you think in Afghanistan you would join hand with China in partnership with India and particularly Pakistan to nip it in the bud before we have the rise of Islamic extremism to threaten the stability in this part of the world?

Hamid Karzai: As I mentioned earlier religious extremism was a tool used by United States and some of its allies, unfortunately, Pakistan as well and trying to weaken and defeat the former Soviet Union that tool continued to be used as well in Afghanistan and that is why we don’t see a defeat of extremism and terrorism. Had there been genuinely an intention to defeat extremism, it would have been defeated by now because the whole world cooperated with the United States. So the fact that it didn’t happen, the fact that the war continued means that, that was not the intention.

Now clearly there is a difference between Islam and religious extremism. Islam is a victim of religious extremism. Muslims are victim of religious extremism. With regard to China, with regard to the use of religious extremism against China we are aware, we are a witness to that in Afghanistan we have seen that in Afghanistan. We cooperated with China in stemming in the bud extremism that was affecting China. And it will be an ideal situation as you mentioned if China, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan could work together and that will definitely be a shifter in the balance against extremism if it would happen and we will welcome it. 

Host: Now, let us know more about Pashton, a major tribe in your country. Do you think the new government that was somehow put there by Americans and the NATO could only account for a minor part of the territory? For the major part of your map in Afghanistan they are under the control of the Taliban and behind the Taliban is the major tribe of Pashton.

Hamid Karzai:  With the arrival of the United States and the NATO in 2001-02 after the tragedy of September 11, for the first time the majority of the Afghan people welcomed a foreign force in our country in order to help free ourselves from a creeping invasion and from extremism and from all of that taking our territory, Al-Qaida, some of those elements and the reason the United States succeed initially was for two distinct factors. One the support of the Afghan people, two the support of the larger international community, the whole of the United Nations and specially our big neighbors. China for example was a tremendous supporter with the United States initially and it continued for a long time in Afghanistan. But when the war continued and when specially the Islamic State arrived in Afghanistan, then suspicions emerged as to why and how come, rather than seeing results toward the positive against extremism we see more of it.Today yes, more territories under the hands of the Taliban, but the Taliban are not belonging to one ethnic group in Afghanistan. No. We have them now in many parts of the country. We have them now in northern Afghanistan, in north eastern Afghanistan and around the capital of the country. It may seem like one ethnic group supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan, but no, the fact is that now they have elements in all the ethnic groups of Afghanistan. They are a local force now.

Host: Let me go back to the issue of the Taliban in Pakistan. Now right after the September 11 that the terrorist attacks occurred in Washington and New York, Islamabad came under fire and huge pressure from Washington urging politicians in this country to take side. Armitage deputy secretary of state said you either take side with us or you will be bombed back to the Stone Age, so the economy of Pakistan plunged as result of taking side with United State. Pakistan paid a heavy price so it might not be fair to say that Pakistan is part of the problem and I have interviewed Mr. Musharaf at least twice and he said along with other senior politicians in this country that Pakistan was a victim of terrorism and for fighting terrorism. So what do think of their concerns?

Hamid Karzai: The people of Pakistan no doubt are victims of terrorism. The government of Pakistan, the military establishment of Pakistan has been hand in hand with the United State of America in promoting extremism in Pakistan and in the region. They did it together. As I mentioned they were allies, when the Soviet Union came to Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States were allies. And then that alliance they designed the use of extremism to defeat the Soviet Union.

Host: But at the same time Islamabad complained bitterly that the United States failed to honor their pledge to provide the country with economic and military assistance.

Hamid Karzai: That is a different side of their relationship. There are too many sides to their relationship. There are certain facts. Fact number one: the government of Pakistan and US were together in the promotion of extremism, religious extremism, in that region in Afghanistan specially.

Host:But too many Pakistani army were killed by extremists. How could they take side with the terrorists? 

Hamid Karzai: They did and that was a consequence of it.

Host: And since it was allowed by President Musharaf and his successor to try to eliminate all the terrorists in the mountainous areas.

Hamid Karzai: Those that were affecting Pakistan were tried to be eliminated but those who were hurting Afghanistan were supported.

Host: And the authorities in Islamabad they are clearly aware that without eliminating the elements of instability or terrorism, it would be absolutely impossible for the two sides, Islamabad and Beijing, to construct the China-Pakistan economic corridor which is an important part of the belt and road initiative. How could the authorities in Islamabad be part of the problem?

Hamid Karzai: Exactly! Now this is the area that we hope a vision will emerge. For the prosperity of Pakistan, for the prosperity of the region, for the one belt one road project succeed Pakistan needs to clearly distance itself from any policies within Pakistan or in cooperation with beyond Pakistan that will promote extremism. Rather Pakistan should join hands with China effectively in combating extremism and Afghanistan will be happily and willingly a part of that.

Host: If possible I would convey your message of goodwill to the ambassador of Pakistan and their politicians in my interviews.

Hamid Karzai: Please do.

Host: By the way Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Quraishi said in December that Pakistan is always keen to have China to be part of efforts for the Afghan peace process and he is glad if the Chinese playing a more active role for Afghanistan’s development and reconstruction. What do make of his remarks?

Hamid Karzai: We welcome those remarks. Those are good remarks and we support those remarks and we would also like to be part of Chinese efforts for stability in Afghanistan and in Pakistan and we would like three countries to work together led by a Chinese initiative.

Host: Thank you very much for your goodwill vision and friendship. I do enjoy and appreciate this conversation with you as I did before.

Hamid Karzai: Thank you sir. Good to talk to you.

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