|Tuesday’s agreement aims to boost trade, security and cultural links between Afghanistan and India [EPA]|
The president of Afghanistan has sought to ease concerns in Pakistan about an agreement with India, saying it will not affect relations with Islamabad.
Hamid Karzai used a speech on Wednesday, as part of his two-day visit to New Delhi, to outline the strategy behind his foreign policy.
“Pakistan is our twin brother, India is a great friend. The agreement we signed with our friend will not affect our brother,” he said.
“This strategic partnership [with India] is not directed against any country, this strategic partnership is to support Afghanistan.”
Ties between Kabul and Islamabad have come under increased pressure following Afghan and US allegations that Pakistan’s ISI Intelligence service was linked to groups who killed Karzai’s peace negotiator, the former president Burhanuddin Rabbani, last month.
Karzai and Manmohan Singh, the Indian prime minister, sealed an agreement on Tuesday that spanned closer political ties to fighting terrorism.
It signals a formal tightening of links that may spark Pakistani concerns India is increasingly competing for leverage in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan’s first such pact with another country, deepens already friendly ties and aims to boost trade, security and cultural links between the two countries.
Indian involvement in Afghanistan is sensitive because of the delicate and often deadly power games in South Asia, with Pakistan vehemently opposed to its arch-foe meddling in what it considers its backyard.
New Delhi, fearful of the return of a Taliban-style regime in Kabul, has poured more than $2bn in aid into the country to gain influence, helping fund highways and the new national parliament building.
The agreement with India is one of several being negotiated by Kabul, including one with the US, that are part of an Afghan bid for greater security as NATO troops head home.
|Abdul Ali Seraj tells Al Jazeera Pakistan should stop being paranoid about Afghanistan’s relations with India|
“It is a hugely symbolic visit for India because Karzai’s visit comes at a time when relations with Pakistan are at an all-time low and Pakistan has consistently denied India a role in the post-conflict Afghanistan situation,” Al Jazeera’s Prerna Suri, reporting from New Delhi, said.
“The Indians are grabbing onto this opportunity, possibly by getting a more meaningful role with this visit.”
Moeed Pirzada, a Pakistani columnist and TV journalist, told Al Jazeera that Pakistan was not too concerned at the moment about Karzai’s visit to India.
“There is a clear understanding in Islamabad that Karzai is on the spot and has to make adjustments because of recent developments,” he said.
The assassination of Rabbani and accusations of close relations between Pakistani intelligence and the Taliban-linked Haqqani network had forced Karzai “to show a certain level of hostility towards Pakistan,” Pirzada added.
With regards to details of security co-operation between Afghanistan and India, Pirzada said Pakistan was “waiting to see the fine print”.
“If they are only concerning the police, they [the Pakistanis] are not really worried. They are not expecting Karzai to cross any red lines that Pakistan is sensitive over.”
In a primetime national address on Monday, Karzai accused Pakistan of “pursuing a double-game”, saying Islamabad was not co-operating in the battle against armed groups to establish peace in Afghanistan.
No positive response
Karzai acknowledged that his efforts for peace had failed as his overtures were met with more violence and targeted killings, most recently of his chief peace negotiator, Rabbani.
“The killings show that our call for peace has not seen a positive response. One-sided desire for peace will not bring a resolution. Peace can only be achieved with those who believe in it.”
“We have to fight decisively against those who do not believe in peace.”
Karzai’s comments follow Pakistan’s criticism by Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, who accused Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency last month of playing a role in the recent attack on the US embassy in Kabul.
The Haqqani network has denied links to the ISI and also involvement in last month’s assassination of Rabbani.
Afghan officials have blamed the Taliban for the September 20 turban bombing, saying Rabbani’s killer was Pakistani and that the attack was plotted by the Afghan Taliban’s leadership body, the Quetta Shura, in Pakistan.