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India should be a lot bolder in meeting military needs of Afghanistan: Hamid Karzai

It has been nearly two years since Hamid Karzai completed his second and last term as President of Afghanistan. But he continues to wield significant political power in the strife-torn country. He spoke to SUSHANT SINGH about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement on Balochistan, the threat of IS, the situation in Kashmir, and called for greater military support from India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has recently spoken about Balochistan, that too from the Red Fort. What will be the impact of the statement?

It means India is concerned about the rising instability in the region, and about human rights in the region. It shows India’s wish to have the people of Balochistan do better, have a normal life away from firings, extremist attacks, bombings and sufferings. Balochistan is not a distant issue for us. Extremism to Afghanistan comes from there. It is very close, both physically and mentally, to us. We have to allow the people there to enjoy the fruits of development and peace. It is a human rights issue, which we must grant to the people of Balochistan.

But this is perhaps the first time an Indian PM has said that publicly. Does it alter the dynamics of India and Pakistan?

It does alter the dynamics in the region in a significant way. It is intended towards bringing peace and stability in the region, and end of use of radicalism and extremism as an instrument of state policy. That is what we must respond to, so that we are no longer suffering from it and we no longer lose people to bomb blasts or attacks organised by terrorists, which are used by state machinery.

How do you see the rise of IS and its consequences, particularly for India? When you met Indian officials, did you speak about the dangers of IS to India?

Of course, we did. This is a constant theme of conversations between India and Afghanistan. Radicalism and religious extremism are causing loss of lives and property, and opportunity that we keep losing towards a better future. So we did discuss this and IS has to be taken very seriously by India. It is a totally foreign phenomenon for our region, is used for sinister purposes and, therefore, we must jointly address it.

Why is IS so different, dangerous and more sinister than other groups, especially in the Indian context?

The objectives of IS are more sinister. The Taliban were localised and they were Afghans. IS is non-Afghan and has no links with the Taliban. It is not indigenous and then it thinks regional, and in a hurtful way. Therefore, you have to be extremely careful in India, up and alert, preventing them from reaching India and hurting Indian interests, as they do right now in Afghanistan. As per reports, some Indians have also joined IS and India should be extremely careful.

As President, you had given a list of military equipment that you wanted from India. That list did not materialise, except for a few helicopters lately. Do you feel India could have done more?

India should be a lot bolder in meeting the military needs of Afghanistan. I want India to take bold steps, and put caution behind, to bolster Afghan defence capabilities. India was considerate of the views of Pakistan, surprisingly, and also of the views of the US, at that time. I want India to have its own considerations, its own interests and be mindful of its own relations with Afghanistan. India is ideally located to provide Afghanistan necessary defence equipment, military hardware and training to our army. The current government has provided some helicopters but we would want them to do more. We don’t want Indian soldiers in Afghanistan. It has to b‘ ‘your equipment, our manpower’.

What is the kind of military equipment India can provide the Afghan National Army to enhance its capabilities?

It is an array of things that India can do. India knows the state of our military very well. They know our conditions, what we need. It is a plethora of things, from training to hardware, that India can do and India has the means available. It has the local production of some of the weapons. It has full knowledge of the functionality of those weapons, and it can train Afghans in the use of those weapons.

Do you see India doing more on military support to Afghanistan, post Modi’s statement on Balochistan?

I very much hope that India would bolster its support for Afghanistan, and strengthen the Afghan forces to bring peace and stability to that country. We should simultaneously seek peaceful relations with our neighbour, Pakistan.

In India, Kashmir has recently seen some trouble. How do you see it playing out?

I hope there would be peace, suffering there would end, and there will be no bloodshed and no interference from outside.

What is the one message you are giving to PM Modi this time?

We are tremendously grateful for the assistance that India has given, and the strong stand vis-à-vis Afghanistan and the region, for being an outspoken and clear mind on these issues..

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