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The Rediff Interview/Former Afghan minister Abdullah Abdullah
'India has a constructive role in Afghanistan'
January 31, 2008
During his hour-and-a-half long breakfast meeting at the Asia Society, Dr Abdullah, a former advisor to the legendary late Afghan commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, spoke at length about the situation in Afghanistan and the future, focusing on what he called the weakening of the State, the weakness of that nation's political system and the need to help and empower the rural communities that are still suffering.
Dr Abdullah, a doctor by training, spoke to rediff India Abroad Senior Editor Suman Guha Mozumder about his country's agony.
President Hamid Karzai said earlier this month that Afghanistan is surrounded by terrorists and countries are not doing what they have been promising to do.
I have said there is a 'mosquito breeding ground' (a breeding ground for terrorists) outside the borders of Afghanistan. That is important (to take note of). But at the same time President Karzai as the elected president of Afghanistan (should know) there are certain things that need to be done within the country. That is as important as the action taken outside.
You mentioned that besides the Taliban there are factors like the lack of development of the political process within the country which has contributed to the state of affairs in Afghanistan today. Could you elaborate?
What happened in the beginning was that we all encouraged President Karzai to take the lead and to form a political party that will have a national basis. This did not happen. What happened (was) small parties were formed. The idea was if there was a broad national-based party, there will also be an Opposition and the political process would move forward. That has not happened.
Then, today, there is a situation between the parliament and the government. That situation is not acceptable for the people of Afghanistan. All these aspects of the political process have to be given importance so it gives a message to the people of either strength or weaknesses. Either way, it will have its impact on the situation.
Why has a national political party not happened so far?
I think it was the (lack of) initiative. Decisions have to be made mainly by the president.
How satisfied are you with NATO's role in your country?
There is need for an increase in the forces. The US will send 3,000 more Marines to help the situation. This will be helpful. At the same time, there is need for expediting training of the national army. Simultaneously, the political atmosphere is as important in contributing to security as military activities.
Do you think that Afghanistan was ignored a bit by the United States because of Washington's preoccupation with Iraq and Iran?
At least, support for Afghanistan continued, notwithstanding what happened in Iraq. At the same time the focus on Pakistan which should have been there right from the beginning was not adequate. They should have helped Islamabad win this challenge (of terrorism), to convince them to take decisive measures, and not to let extremism and terrorism to grow. A lot could have been done on that in the past few years before it got to the present situation when it has become a challenge for Pakistan as well as for the whole region.
How positive are you about the future of Afghanistan?
I have been optimistic all my life. I see a lot of opportunities. But my optimism or pessimism will be based on whether I see a process for a change which is not there at this stage, but hopefully will come.
Your take on the upcoming election in Pakistan.
If it will strengthen the mainstream politics in Pakistan and the voice of the Pakistani people in the short and long term, it will be in the interest of people in Pakistan and Afghanistan regardless of who comes out the winner. If the democratic process is seen by the people of Pakistan as free and fair, I am sure they will contribute positively. If it is not seen (that way) then one way or the other it will then have some instability and spillover and we will suffer.
You mean to say that...
I know this because I was in the government. There is a great willingness to work together to deal with challenges like fighting terrorism and to cooperate for economic opportunities. Stability in Afghanistan will help stability in the whole region and vice versa.
A former Indian foreign minister has said the Indian government could have done more for Afghanistan in terms of aid and other things, but for Pakistan. Your comments on that observation. Is India doing enough for Afghanistan?
I think India is playing a very constructive role. It has contributed to the construction in Afghanistan. India is a not a donor country. Look at the contributions it has made and how it has helped and (in terms of) improvement in the life of the Afghan people in different ways and means.
The Rediff Interviews