The second India-Afghanistan International Trade and Investment show is being held in Mumbai. The chief executive of Afghanistan Dr. Abdullah Abdullah was in Mumbai to attend the four-day event.
In an exclusive interview to India Today TV, he touched upon various issues including the situation in his country, Taliban and Imran Khan’s government in Pakistan. The transcript of the interview is as follows:
Afghanistan has seen unprecedented violence in the recent past; how confident are you that foreign investment will come in Afghanistan?
Between last year and this year we had a similar trade show in New Delhi where deals over $2 billion were made. We are enabling an environment for business — legislative reforms have been carried out, licensing and visa laws have been eased, company, mining and insolvency laws have been enacted.
This has led to a situation where big businesses have shown interest in the areas of energy, mining, technology, ICT [information and communications technology], infrastructure building, public-private partnerships…I understand that had it not been for the security challenges our potential would have been 10 times more.
Taliban are still a factor. So how are talks with them going on?
There hasn’t been direct talks between our government and the Taliban. Certain partners of Afghanistan in certain countries have established contacts with them. So far they have not shown any willingness to enter serious negotiations. There are certain elements that have to be taken into account and also the cooperation from the neighborhood is crucial and critical.
Speaking about neighborhood, we have to talk about Pakistan. What role has Pakistan played in Afghanistan?
There is no doubt that Taliban leaders are there [in Pakistan]. Some of the planning to carry out attacks in Afghanistan are done at Taliban hideouts there. We know that these groups do not serve the interests of any state. They have their own agenda and that agenda is against statehood and state institutions.
Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan has said he wants to contribute to the peace and stability of the region. We hope that we will be able to establish a level of cooperation and understanding, to be able to not only address the challenges which are common for all of us but also to utilize the opportunity so that all of us benefit.
There is a major concern with Imran Khan because of his perceived closeness to right-wing groups. He is also known as Taliban Khan. So do you really think that there will be a change in Pakistan’s approach to bring in peace and stability in the region?
The real hopes will come when we see a change in attitude; but at the same time we don’t want to be negative. It’s a huge responsibility to be elected as a politician. If we as politicians can’t see the reality and take decisions accordingly then history will never spare us. We need vision and sacrifices for the region to prosper.
But do you see any kind of change in Pakistan’s approach? Do you see any kind of sincerity for bringing in peace in this region?
It’s only a few weeks since the establishment of a new government, why not be hopeful? Pakistan’s foreign minister will visit Afghanistan in a few days. We will continue to engage. Though Afghanistan has suffered in the past four decades, we do not harbour ill will against any country.
How much of Pakistan involvement is there in fomenting trouble in Kashmir? In the past we’ve seen the same terrorists were involved in carrying out terror attacks in Afghanistan as well as in Kashmir?
As I mentioned earlier that there are some groups who propagate an ideology that is flawed. Groups like Pakistan Taliban have turned against the same institutions that created them.
Why I am asking you this is because what you said back in 2016. You remember the Pathankot attack and on the Indian mission in Mazar-e-Sharif? You said then, “All the evidence is available but I cannot make a judgment…” So after two years what do you think happened?
A lot more had happened in the past two years. It has only helped the terrorists…targeting innocents, killing more. When a terrorist incident takes place in Pakistan, we feel the pain as we have seen it for ourselves, we see the suffering of our own people…
But have you arrived at any decision now because then it was quiet early to make any kind of judgment about the link between two attacks?
The fact that the groups had the same ideology with the same terrorist intentions in carrying out these attacks…but to come to any conclusion you need professional judgments, intelligence inputs and that’s not my job. I’ll repeat what I said earlier that terrorism does not help anybody.
Do you think that if the situation in Pakistan improves, if the Pakistani administration takes certain steps the situation will be better in the whole region?
I think if countries in the region cooperated then we’ll be able to address some of the challenges. We might not be able to solve all the issues but surely the overall situation will improve.
You have also said that Indian government is also in the loop as far as talks with the Taliban are concerned. Do you want to say anything about that? As I mentioned earlier we need to have direct talks between Afghan government and Taliban. There have been initiatives from other countries. But as I said Taliban have not shown serious intentions in the talks in order to solve issues peacefully.