India must rethink its support to Trump plan: Karzai

New Delhi – Former Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai says US’s South Asia policy has been a disappointment as it hasn’t backed it up with action against terrorist safe havens in Pakistan.

In an exclusive interview to The Hindu during his visit to Delhi, Karzai said “India’s support to President Trump’s policy on Afghanistan, from what I have gathered, is based on realism. What is important is to see action based on this policy that addresses the place where terrorism emanates from. The US policy on Afghanistan must bring salvation to the people of Afghanistan from terrorism that is responsible for their misery.”

Responding to a question, Karzai said India must rethink its support to the US South Asia policy. “Oh very much so. This is what I have been saying. India is a country with a deep and fundamental relationship with Afghanistan, and one that has effectively fought terrorism. India has the right to ask the US questions on all these issues I have mentioned, and it must think and rethink its [support] in view of changes and developments in Afghanistan.”

Calling the US and Pakistan “bedfellows,” Karzai said Trump, who announced his new Afghan policy for South Asia in August this year, had failed to back his tough words on Pakistan with action. The policy, which entailed a larger role in development work for India as well as more pressure on Pakistan to act against terrorist safe havens within its borders, was welcomed by New Delhi at the time.

“We have heard these words over the past 16 years, repeatedly from US on terror sanctuaries within Pakistan. But we also see the US talking of Pakistan as an ally, and being protective of Pakistan…,” Karzai said.

“Now too, they pointed fingers at Pakistan and then within months they gave them another 700 million dollars in appreciation of their fight against terrorism,” Karzai said.

He was referring to the Defense authorisation bill that Trump signed into law on Thursday, which provides for up to $700 million to be transferred to Pakistan for coalition support.

Karzai, who has often criticised Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani’s government for concessions to the United States, also called for a Loya Jirga [meeting of tribal elders] to decide the future course of the US presence in Afghanistan, where it still maintains about 10,000 troops. “They (US) must negotiate a new compact and terms of engagement for their presence in Afghanistan now. This is why I have been calling for the Loya Jirga to be convened, to relegitimise the US presence. The more the US opposes this Jirga, the more Afghans will turn away from them,” he added.

Karzai said he had discussed developments in the region including “the war against terrorism and extremism” with Prime Minister Modi, who hosted an official dinner in his honour at Hyderabad House. The dinner was attended by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary Dr S Jaishankar. “Delighted to meet my friend [Hamid Karzai] in New Delhi,” tweeted Prime Minister Modi, after the talks on Saturday evening.

However Karzai dismissed speculation that his visit and the ‘red carpet’ treatment he received entailed any special message or a change in Indian policy. “I go around the world and meet with leaders: I was with President Rouhani in Tehran and was received by President Putin in Russia, and by the Chinese leadership. India is of course more hospitable given my old connection here,” he said.

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