AMID AFGHANISTAN DRAW DOWN: MUSHARRAF WARNS OF PROXY WAR WITH INDIA
The departure of Nato combat forces from AFGHANISTAN could push INDIA and PAKISTAN towards a proxy war in the troubled state, former military ruler General PERVEZ MUSHARRAF said in an interview.
MUSHARRAF, who was a key US ally in its “war on terror”, now lives under tight security in his KARACHI home, facing TALIBAN death threats and a litany of criminal cases. The 71-year-old who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999, praised new AFGHAN President ASHRAF GHANI, who made his first official trip to PAKISTAN last week in a bid to reset fractious ties with ISLAMABAD.
PAKISTAN’S support is seen as crucial to AFGHAN peace as US-led forces pull out by the end of this year after 13 years battling the TALIBAN. But the former strongman said calming tension between INDIA and PAKISTAN, running high at the moment after some of the worst cross-border firing in years is key to peace in AFGHANISTAN.
INDIAN INFLUENCE IN AFGHANISTAN
“The danger for PAKISTAN is… the INDIAN influence in AFGHANISTAN,” he said. “That is another danger for the whole region and for PAKISTAN because INDIAN involvement there has an anti-PAKISTAN connotation. They (INDIA) want to create an anti-PAKISTAN AFGHANISTAN.”
INDIA and PAKISTAN both have long accused each other of using proxy forces to try to gain influence in AFGHANISTAN.
“If INDIANS are using some elements of the ethnic entities in AFGHANISTAN, then PAKISTAN will use its own support for ethnic elements, and our ethnic elements are certainly PASHTUNS,” MUSHARRAF said.
“So we are initiating a proxy war in AFGHANISTAN. This must be avoided.”
PAKISTAN SECRETLY BACKING THE TALIBAN?
MUSHARRAF blamed INDIA for supporting separatist rebels in BALOCHISTAN via training camps in southern AFGHANISTAN, a common accusation in military circles.
Former AFGHAN president HAMID KARZAI routinely accused PAKISTAN of secretly backing the TALIBAN as a hedge against INDIAN influence in his country.
PAKISTAN denies the accusation, though it was one of only three countries to officially recognise the AFGHAN TALIBAN regime, in power from 1996 until 2001 when the US-led invasion resulted in its overthrow.
MUSHARRAF criticised former AFGHAN president HAMID KARZAI for sending officials for training in INDIA and not PAKISTAN, saying “these small things add up to strategic problems”.
GHANI and Prime Minister NAWAZ SHARIF pledged at the weekend to move on from the sniping and bitterness of the KARZAI years, with the AFGHAN leader saying three days of talks had undone 13 years of differences.