China can help in Afghan peace process: Karzai

Source:Global Times Published: 2018/7/19 17:43:39

Editor's Note:

Peace has not come on the horizon in war-torn Afghanistan despite international efforts. What role will different mechanisms play in bringing peace to the South Asian country? What is Afghanistan's expectation from China during this process? Global Times (GT) reporter Wang Wenwen interviewed former Afghan president Hamid Karzai (Karzai) on these issues on the sidelines of the recently-held World Peace Forum in Beijing.

Hamid Karzai Photo: Wang Wenwen/GT

GT: In Western opinion, Afghanistan is a heartland of contention among major powers. What is your take on this?

Karzai: That's exactly what we don't want. Initially when the United States came to Afghanistan in 2002, it adopted the policy of cooperation between Afghanistan and the neighbors and big powers. That's why China was on board. That's why Russia and India were supportive of US efforts in Afghanistan. All the countries who had rivalry and competition or differences with the US were very cooperative with the US in Afghanistan. That cooperation is no longer there. It has given place to suspicion and disagreements. We like this cooperation to re-emerge and we believe this can be achieved in two ways. First, the United States changes its approach. Second, China can play a constructive role together with Afghanistan and other major regional powers to make sure Afghanistan is not a place of competition but cooperation.

GT: Afghanistan sees Pakistan as being used against it and vice versa. How could they walk out of that plight and improve bilateral relations?

Karzai: Afghanistan sees Pakistan as a place from where Afghanistan gets hurt and Pakistan occasionally feels the same way. Here Afghanistan is more justified because violent extremism came to Afghanistan from Pakistan. It was certain elements within the government of Pakistan who did this all wrong all the time, during the Soviet invasion, together with the Americans and other countries, when they created extremism in Afghanistan, from which the country has suffered enormously.

But that's not the story between the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The people of Pakistan are the closest neighbors of the Afghan people. It is the elements in the Pakistani government, especially in the military and intelligence, that we are concerned about. We hope that they will understand that extremism or the use of extremism is in nobody's interest. Pakistani people have also greatly suffered at the hands of extremism.

So we hope that Pakistan would change its attitude, or stop seeing extremism or the use of extremist violence as an instrument of state policy, and that it will adopt a different means of seeking interests in Afghanistan — through cooperation and economic integration.

GT: It has been three years since the Quadrilateral Coordination Group that consists of Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the US was set up to bring the Taliban to the talks table. How far has the mechanism achieved?

Karzai: It is a good platform. But this platform has to expand. It can also include Russia, India and Iran, another major neighbor of Afghanistan. Without the three countries that have a lot of interest and influence in Afghanistan, efforts will not succeed. So it is important to make the quadrilateral into a seven-country combination on Afghanistan.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia also have an important role to play. If you want peace in Afghanistan, we must make it wholesome and cohesive for all of us.

There are no obstacles in bringing these countries in, but somebody should take the initiative and we want China to do it.

China is a huge country, a world power and a neighbor, and has direct interest in the peace of Afghanistan. All the three are combined. China has a particular friendship with Pakistan, which is good for us because we like this relationship to be used in favor of peace and regional and big power cohesion in the Afghan case.

GT: How can the Shanghai Cooperation Organization get involved in helping with the Afghan issue?

Karzai: The SCO can play a significant role because all the relevant powers related to Afghanistan are there. The only country that is relevant but is out of it is the United States. It can be brought in. It can be spoken to. I'm sure that will be helpful.

There is also another mechanism that China can support. The entire new structure of Afghanistan arrived at the Bonn conference in Germany in 2001. China can bridge the initiative with Germany of re-launching another conference where all the big international powers are present and so are the Afghan people to start a new effort. The difference during the first Bonn conference was that the Taliban were not there. China can try, in the new conference, to bring the Taliban on board so that it leads to peace and permanent resolution of the conflict.

GT: What are the areas of cooperation between Afghanistan and China under the Belt and Road initiative?

Karzai: Afghanistan and China are close neighbors. Especially in the past 17 years, China has been one of the strongest supporters of Afghanistan's development. China has also undertaken a lot of efforts for bringing peace to Afghanistan that we very much value.

The Afghan-Chinese relationship has grown from one of economic assistance to Afghan people by the Chinese people to one of trade and economic ties. There are three fundamentally important areas of cooperation. The first is Afghanistan's eagerness to offer China all the possibilities of investment in main roads and infrastructure. The second is that Afghanistan is the heart of Asia, a crossroads of civilizations and cultures, and goods and trade. The third is the Belt and Road initiative which suits Afghanistan very well. Afghanistan is already part of the project.

In terms of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Afghanistan has its own views and interests. But with regards to Afghanistan and China and the larger Belt and Road initiative, Afghanistan likes to be a player by being a connector in the whole of South Asia and Central Asia. Afghanistan would be more than happy to offer its territory for the Belt and Road route from Tajikistan to Iran and from Pakistan to Central Asia.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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