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Karzai stresses on the need for a South Asian ‘strategic arc’

Suhasini Haidar Bengaluru | Updated on January 12, 2018 Published on February 10, 2017

Former President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai in conversation with the Chairman of Kasturi and Sons Ltd N Ram. - Photo: K Murali Kumar

Former Afghanistan President says India can play a key role in regional peace



Calling for a stronger role for India in regional peace given the “confusing” signals coming from the US, Afghanistan’s former President Hamid Karzai said there is a need for a “Strategic Arc” in South Asia.

Speaking at ‘The Huddle’, Conversations for Change, a conclave organised by The Hindu and YES Bank in Bengaluru, Karzai drew the contours of the arc for security in the region, which would run from Iran to Russia and China, calling India the “lynchpin” of South Asia.

“The US, at the present juncture, is sending out signals of confusion, arbitrariness, even distress,” Karzai warned in his keynote address titled “Strategic Arc for South Asia: Why we need it”.

“But it (US) is still the world’s single most powerful country, capable of more destruction than any other power, should it be led that way in its anxiety,” he added. Answering questions from N Ram, Chairman of Kasturi and Sons, Karzai hoped that there would be an opportunity for the US to reverse its policy on Afghanistan under the new US President Donald Trump, particularly with better US-Russia ties.

Pakistan policy

Calling for a revision in the US’s Pakistan policy, Karzai said the US must persuade Pakistan to end its “policy of safe havens to terrorist groups”.

“I love the people of Pakistan, but its military supports terrorists and extremists across the border from us. The US must stop this,” he said.

Karzai’s words come a day after the commander for US and international forces in Afghanistan General John Nicholson called for a “holistic review” of US relations with Pakistan at a Senate committee meeting in Washington, indicating a tougher strategy with Islamabad.

Karzai’s words are also significant as they signal a shift from the US-centric security structure for Afghanistan, where America has led anti-terror and peacekeeping efforts in Afghanistan since it defeated the Taliban regime in 2001, and denote a move towards Russia and China, which have not been major players in Afghanistan since the 1980s.

“Russia and China are not in South Asia. But they are our immediate neighbours. Their actions impact us, and ours them. If we are able to incorporate them in a virtuous arc, if we throw our weight behind resolving any bilateral hurdles within this arc that distort relationships, then we may be well on our way to taking meaningful steps forward.”

China road project

In particular, Karzai said that India must consider joining the China One Belt One Road (OBOR) project, which if combined with India’s Afghanistan-Iran trilateral project for the Chabahar port to link them, would be what he called a “win-win” situation for all. India has resisted calls from Beijing to connect about 10,000 km of highways across Asia and Europe so far, objecting to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that runs through Kashmir and Gilgit- Baltistan.

“With Pakistan blocking India’s access to Afghanistan and Central Asia, OBOR and Chabahar projects are the only alternative for India,” Karzai said.

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Published on February 10, 2017
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