By: Suhasini Haidar
Karzai says Islamabad is trying to hold the Afghan peace process hostage to its Kashmir objectives
India should be wary about a possible U.S.-Pakistan “deal” on Afghanistan, warned former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, as U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad was set to begin another round of talks in Doha to try and reach a deal with the Taliban. Mr. Karzai, who was in Delhi to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, said he had conveyed the “fears for Afghanistan” if there was a deal that involved Pakistan.
“We Afghans have suffered massively the consequences of American-Pakistani deals,” Mr. Karzai told The Hindu in an interview. “Now too, this is very likely, and this is our fear and concern. We have been clear with Ambassador Khalilzad that we will fully back negotiations for peace in Afghanistan, but we draw a clear distinction between peace in Afghanistan and U.S.-Pakistani deals in Afghanistan,” he said, adding that India, which had suffered similar consequences “should be extremely worried”.
Responding to Mr. Trump’s recent comments, where he framed the India-Pakistan problem over Kashmir as a religious issue, Mr. Karzai said the U.S. President was being “too simplistic”.
“Hindus and Muslims have lived together for centuries in this part of the world and produced great achievements together. Any division on a Hindu-Muslim basis is very simplistic,” Mr. Karzai said.
India has made no comment on Mr. Trump’s remarks, which included another offer of mediation between New Delhi and Islamabad, despite the government repeatedly rejecting any third party role. The Afghan peace process, the scenario in Kashmir and tensions between India and Pakistan are expected to be discussed when Mr. Trump interacts with Mr. Modi on the sidelines of the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France this week, the first time the two leaders will meet since June.
Mr. Karzai, who returned to Kabul on Wednesday, also rejected Pakistan’s threat that India’s move on Article 370 would have consequences for the Afghan peace process.
“Pakistan’s desire to link the two indicates that it still sees Afghanistan as a place for “strategic depth”, to the detriment of Afghanistan. We don’t see any link between events in Kashmir to the peace process in Afghanistan, and we would like that Pakistan doesn’t try to hold the peace process hostage to its objectives in Kashmir,” Mr. Karzai said.
On Tuesday, Mr. Khalilzad, who has had close consultations with Pakistan’s government for ongoing talks with the Taliban leadership, tweeted that he was going to Doha to try and “close on remaining issues” for a final agreement ahead of a September 1 deadline.