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Friendship with Pakistan but not at the cost of India: Spanta

By Ahmad Siyar Sirat-This is a translated version of the interview of Rangin Dadfar Spanta, the National Security Advisor for the ex-president and the former Foreign Minister, with a local newspaper, Hast-e-Subh.

Q: It is said that as a result of struggles of the national unity government and non-stop visits of Pakistani generals to Kabul, the Taliban representatives are likely to come to the table of negotiations with the Afghan government. How do you evaluate this situation?

A: Efforts to negotiate with the Taliban is the continuation of a process that was kicked off in the past and reached to a status after years of struggles under the ex-President Karzai’s tenure. The struggles and efforts were on the verge of providing results when Hamid Karzai’s tenure ended and all were left for the next government to continue its efforts in this regard. On that time, a number of changes came in relations and cooperation among Afghanistan, China and Pakistan, which I will not go in details in this regard. No citizen is against negotiations that led to peace. I am in favor of starting peace talks and its likely results, but no change has come in my viewpoint about the Taliban, terrorists and forces behind them. I believe that everyone should enter into peace with their oppositions.

Q: Struggles of the national unity government have resulted in better ties between Kabul and Islamabad. What is your viewpoint about the change in AfPak relations?

A: I think the improvement in Kabul-Islamabad ties is not bad for kicking off peace talks with the Taliban, but this improvement should not result in damaging the polycentric foreign policy of Afghanistan. Experiences have shown that the countries that have taken distance with polycentric policies, have abandoned themselves to slavery and reliance. I am in favor of continuation of polycentric politics in foreign policy and security of Afghanistan. Improvement of Afghanistan’s ties with Pakistan should not result in damaging our relations with other countries. I want to give you an example about polycentric politics. Despite problems in relations between US and Iran, we maintained balanced and good relations with the two countries. Despite of challenges between India and Pakistan, we never let Indian army to use our soil against Pakistan. We have strategic partnership with India, but the Afghan soil has not been used against security of Pakistan. Idealism should not be replaced with reality. Using of Afghan soil by India is idealism. The price of close relations with Islamabad should not harm the polycentric politics and strategic partnerships of Afghanistan with other countries.

Q: President Ghani suspended an agreement of providing weapons by India to Afghanistan, and this was welcomed by Pakistanis and resulted in improvement of Kabul-Islamabad ties. Do you think this decision by President Ghani is against the polycentric politics of Afghanistan?

A: I don’t want to say anything about the decision by Mr. Ashraf Ghani. But I want to say that Afghanistan’s polycentric politics should be maintained. Suppose that Pakistan’s security is threatened through Afghan soil and India is behind it, then Pakistan has the right to call for stoppage of such interference. This is the legal right of a neighboring country. But, this will not happen. Security of Pakistan will not be threatened by India through Afghanistan. This is idealism. We should not fix our foreign policy based on idealism of Pakistan. This should not be the price of peace and improvement of ties with Pakistan. The security policy of Pakistan has stuck in 1970s. It is 2015 now, and Pakistan must accept our independence.

Q: Pakistan will not bring the Taliban to the table of negotiations without receiving privileges. What should we do to push Pakistan to stop supporting the Taliban?

A: Pakistan must accept that Afghanistan is not a threat. We should increase our economic ties at a level that damaging the ties would result in damage to any of the two countries. This is a national policy. But now, a number of efforts have been made that are not meeting the national interests of Afghanistan. For instance, unfortunately, we sent our troops to Pakistan for training; unfortunately, we allowed Pakistan’s spy agency to inspect terrorist inmates in our prisons. Even we changed our political literature, as Mr. Ghani said in Munich Conference that “Afghanistan is one of terrorism centers in the world and the world should not leave us alone.” But, the center of terrorisms is Pakistan; Afghanistan is the victim of terrorism. It is Pakistan that sends terrorists to our country. We have completely changed our political literature towards them (Pakistan). This is not fair.

Q: Then what should be the price of peace?

A: Despite of my remarks as I said before, peace has the price that we should pay it. We should talk with Pakistan, and Pakistan should promise not to use terrorism against Afghanistan. If Pakistan has documents that show that its security is threatened through Afghanistan, then we should remove the threat. But if this threat does not exist, and if it is purpose for Hindu-phobia, then Pakistan should accept that it commits mistake. We should not sacrifice our polycentric policy.

Q: Pakistanis does not consider Afghanistan’s foreign policy as polycentric. They believe that India has intelligential presence in Afghanistan and are threatening them through Afghan soil. Musharraf in his recent interview with the Guardian said that Karzai had helped India stab Pakistan in the back.

A: Musharraf and Pakistani military have always been against national unity of Afghanistan. They fuel tribal conflicts in Afghanistan. The leadership of Pakistan’s army consider part of Afghanistan’s people as their slaves. Musharraf said in his interview that they use Pashtuns of Afghanistan against other tribes. Musharraf in the same interview, divided Afghan people into two hireling groups—the non-Pashtuns that are pro-India and Pashtuns that are pro-Pakistan. Musharraf with such words insulted the people of Afghanistan. The people of Afghanistan from any tribe have jointly fought and combated against invasions of foreign countries. We have responded any logic that undermines the national unity of Afghanistan, and now I am responding to this as a citizen of this country. As I said before, we have allowed no Indian force to use our soil against Pakistan. The problem of Pakistan is the Hindu-phobia ideology. This ideology has pushed Pakistanis to blame India for any kind of problem and challenge. I, as the former National Security Advisor and Foreign Minister, have several times heard from Pakistani officials that India has 14 consulates in Afghanistan. They told this lie to American officials as well. An American senator once told me that you don’t need for 14 consulates of India in your country; while India has four consulates in Afghanistan, and so does Pakistan. Once a Pakistani official told me that make India’s hand short in your country. I told the official that I accept, but you should not replace idealism with reality. Pakistan does not have any document to show that we have allowed India to use our soil against them. They blame us for favoring India while we are in favor of liberalism. During the past 13 years, we tried to maintain our independence. Pakistanis have problem with our 13 years’ struggles in this regard. Pakistan is eying to slave foreign policymakers of Afghanistan. Pakistan should bear in mind that it will never succeed to enslave us.

Q: Pakistanis have always said that India’s inelegance has presence in Afghanistan and damages them through here. They say that India’s consulates in Jalalabad and Kandahar are spy centers and have not been established for diplomatic purpose. They say that presence of India’s intelligence in Afghanistan supports the separation of Pakistani and Baluch Taliban.

A: These remarks are the outcome of the Hindu-phobia ideology. I as a foreign minister and national security advisors repeatedly suggested Pakistanis to come and form a joint diplomatic team with Afghanistan in order to exchange the two countries’ information. I told them that let us know if they have any information that shows India supports or trains Pakistani Taliban and separatist militants, and we will act against them. But they provided no document and information in this regard. Afghanistan also has no document about using Afghan soil by India against Pakistan. Pakistan’s intelligence is very powerful. The intelligence, with the support of US leaders, can make Haqqani as its long hand for damaging Afghanistan, but why it cannot provide a document and fact that show Indians support their (Pakistan’s) oppositions through Afghanistan. Pakistan knows that we have taken control of Kunar for past one year. The province was controlled by international troops before us. If Pakistan has military base there, then this should be made clear by the countries that had presence there. Why Pakistan does not name those countries?

Q: Pakistan is not alone in this claim against India. The former US Defense Minister Chuck Hagel had said that India is active against Pakistan in Afghanistan. Moreover, Obama had told the former President Karzai that Kabul should adjust its relations with India in the way that Pakistan wants.

A: I was present in all sensitive and important sessions during the past decade. Americans several times told us that terrorists’ nests are in Pakistan. Americans told us in the sessions that the terrorists that kill Afghan and foreign troops have sanctuaries in Pakistan. But they did not act against the sanctuaries. I was present at the secession where Obama urged former President Karzai to adjust Afghan government’s relations with India in the way that Pakistan wants. Mr. Karzai’s response to Obama during the session was very patriotic. Karzai said, “if the security of Pakistan is threatened through our soil, Islamabad has the right to be concerned about our relations with India, but if Pakistan asks us to cancel scholarships of India and not allow India to build the Salma Dam, this is against the policy of national development in Afghanistan, and this is against our independence. We are a poor country and need assistance. Any government that wants to nod to this illegal suggestion by Pakistan, should realize that the Afghan people will rise against it.”

Q: Why Americans took stance in favor of Pakistan?

A: This should be replied by Americans. I don’t want to create idealism. Americans should explain that why they say that Pakistan is the safe haven of terrorists, while on the other side they say that Afghanistan should adjust its relations with India in the way that Pakistan wants—they way that the current government is going through. Hamid Karzai deliberately told Obama in the session that we will not give the veto right of Afghanistan’s politics to any country. Pakistan is suffering from paranoia, and Hindu-phobia is common there. It cannot compete with India inside its home, while it wants to create puppet government in Kabul and take control of our foreign policy. Pakistan will never succeed to gain the veto right of foreign policy of Afghanistan.

Q: Pakistan has its historical fears as well. For instance, Pakistanis say they will not allow the creation of an anti-Pakistan Afghanistan once again. The then governments of Afghanistan did not officially recognized Pakistan as a country, and take control of its territory and created hurdles for newly established governments there. Do you think these fears are justified at some extent?

A: The foreign policy that its basis is fear is very dreadful. The countries that carry on their policy based on fear are changed into barbaric. This is very bad. Pakistani policymakers should realize that this is very dangerous. Wherever a bomb blast occurs, in Paris or in Germany, its source is Pakistan. Pakistan should learn to treat its neighbors and the world as a civilized country. As a state, Pakistan has become a rebel. No one denies that the Durand Line is an issue. In past 13 years, Afghanistan never raised the issue of the Durand Line. We hope that Afghanistan and Pakistan resolve their problems like the European countries. If Pakistan thinks that the main problem is the Durand Line; why it doesn’t stop at the Durand Line? During the Taliban regime, Pakistanis sent their forces to Kunduz and Mazar. They want to extend the Durand Line beyond its territorial location. Their policy is expansionism. We have problem with this policy. We can resolve the Durand Line issue through regional integration and establishing of joint market and economic cooperation. But now Pakistan tries to control our foreign policy. I am sure that there are a number of figures that are monitoring Kabul’s relations with Islamabad with liberalism sensitivity. Pakistan will not succeed to have control on our foreign policy.

Q: There is a nationalism ideology that its dream is to divide Pakistan. It is said that there are a number of figures in India that want to divide Pakistan. We all know that India supported Bengalis in Bangladesh war. Is there any guarantee that it won’t divide northern parts of Pakistan?

A: Pakistan should strengthen its unity through improvement of democracy. Unity cannot be achieved through enslaving neighbors. What is the relation of separatism of Baluchis with Afghanistan? Or for instance, what is the relation of Sindhi and Punjabis differences with us? All know about the story of Bangladesh’s separation. Bengalis won the democratic election, but other half of Pakistan did not allow a Bengali to become the prime minister. The problem was here. It is natural that crisis and division will come if you don’t accept democracy. After colonialism period in 1947, a subcontinent was divided to two countries. One country achieved democracy, accepted Hindu, Sikh, Christian and Muslim in its political parties and in its government, created pluralism, and changed into great democratic country; while the other country removed governments through military coup d’etat, established militarized foreign policy, and ignored legal suggestions from inside its administration. Here, no foreign country is blamed. Pakistan should improve democracy. When you have inner weaknesses, you should not blame other countries for it. Afghanistan wants good neighborhood and a democratic Pakistan. I am also in favor of friendship with Pakistan, on condition that it avoids sending terrorists to Afghanistan. India in current situation is not trying to divide Pakistan. Bangladesh is the story of 1970. Now the evaluation of India is that it will suffer the most damage from Pakistan’s division.

Q: It is said that changes have come in Pakistan. They say that the major threat is religious extremism. How much is this change serious?

A: I am a teacher. My job requires seeing the facts, particularly in countries that their political elites are liar. I hope that change has come there, and that is why I am happy that peace talks with the Taliban will begin. But my doubt continues until I see the facts. Foss writes in the famous book of Guetta that thoughts have been shared, let us see the practice. We agreed this with former foreign minister of Pakistan Hina Rabbani Khar, General Ashfaq Kayani and former Prime Minister Riza Gilani, but they didn’t practice the agreement. I hope the change happen in real, this time.

Q: As the last question, the supporters of the policy of the national unity government towards Pakistan believe that this opportunity should be used and all excuses of Pakistanis should be thrown out and the peace price should be paid. What do you think in this regard?

A: We cannot give the right for Pakistan to veto our foreign policy. Pakistan and those who want to leave Afghanistan’s foreign policy under control of Pakistan have not shown any document that proves India is using Afghan soil against Pakistan. We cannot ignore our independence. I am ready to go out into streets and criticize and protest the policy that allows Pakistan to have the veto right of our foreign policy. In the meantime, I am ready to go out into streets and defend and support the honorable peace with Taliban and Pakistan.

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