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Karzai salve on ‘twin brother’ Pak
Karzai salve on ‘twin brother’ Pak Hamid Karzai at the lecture in New Delhi on Wednesday. (Reuters)

New Delhi, Oct. 5: Afghan President Hamid Karzai today reassured Islamabad that the strategic partnership agreement he signed with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday was not directed at any other country.

“Pakistan is a twin brother, India is a great friend. The agreement that we signed yesterday with our friend will not affect our brother,” Karzai said during a lecture organised by a New Delhi think tank.

He spoke of his vision of a borderless South Asia where Afghan grapes can reach Delhi in a lorry “as delicious and fresh as they are in Kabul or Kandahar”.

With Pakistan high commissioner Shahid Malik in the audience, Karzai said there was “nothing new” in the agreement signed yesterday at Hyderabad House here. It only “put in words what we have been doing all these years”.

The agreement envisages Indian assistance to Afghanistan “in the training, equipping and capacity building programmes for Afghan national security forces”.

New Delhi is already training Afghan army personnel at Indian military academies but yesterday’s agreement formalises the understanding and is widely interpreted as Kabul preparing for 2014 when the US-led forces are to leave Afghanistan.

However, Karzai’s repeated insistence that the agreement was not directed at Pakistan only went to confirm what has been seen by experts as Kabul’s response to Islamabad’s increasing meddling in its affairs.

“The signing of the strategic partnership with India is not directed against any country. It is not directed against any other entity. This is for Afghanistan to benefit from the strength of India,” the Afghan President said, delivering the third R.K. Mishra memorial lecture organised by the Observer Research Foundation.

Karzai, who described Pakistan as the biggest victim of terrorism in the region, confirmed that his government had stopped peace talks with the Taliban after the assassination of Afghan peace council chairperson Burhanuddin Rabbani. “We have decided not to talk to the Taliban because we don't know their address, we don't know where to find them,” he said.

The Afghan President, who wrapped up a two-day visit today, spoke of the age-old links between India, Pakistan and Afghanistan and recalled how Rabindranath Tagore wrote about an Afghan merchant (kabuliwala), and how people across the region enjoy Lata Mangeshkar’s songs, Mehdi Hassan’s ghazals and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s qawwalis.

“Ask any Afghan and they will tell you about Shah Rukh Khan; ask any Pakistani and they will tell you about Indian songs. This is the foundation we have,” he said, breaking into a smattering of Urdu and Hindi during his extempore speech.

He echoed Singh’s vision of a day when you would be able to breakfast in Amritsar, lunch in Lahore and have dinner in Kabul.

Karzai, 53, said his dream was to retire not as a citizen of Afghanistan but of South Asia.

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