| Hamid Karzai: Centre of tug of war
Washington, April 27: As US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage prepares to leave for India, Pakistan and Afghanistan in a few days, he faces a new problem in India-Pakistan relations from an unexpected quarter.
Vyacheslav Trubnikov, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s pointman for Afghanistan, has sent out what is being interpreted here as a clear warning to Armitage not to come in the way of India’s “traditionally good and quite developed” ties with Afghanistan.
Trubnikov’s warning has come amid indications here that Armitage will privately ask India to keep its hands off Afghanistan as the price for increased disengagement by Pervez Musharraf’s regime from terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.
Musharraf has been complaining about Indian “interference” in Afghanistan and a few months ago, Washington discreetly advised New Delhi to go slow on Afghanistan in order not to agitate Islamabad on the issue.
However, Musharraf has taken advantage of such accommodation shown by the Bush administration, and in recent months, stepped up pressure on Hamid Karzai’s weakening authority in Kabul, which has been somewhat orphaned by the war against Saddam Hussein.
The issue figured prominently in talks which external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha had with Putin and his foreign minister Igor Ivanov in Moscow in February.
Subsequently, Pakistan has unilaterally erected border posts along the “Durand Line” which was agreed on in November 1893 between Abdur Rahman Shah, the then ruler of Afghanistan, and Sir Mortimer Durand, the foreign secretary of colonial India, as the border between Afghanistan and the British Indian empire in the part which became Pakistan in 1947.
That agreement expired after a century, in 1993. In any case, Afghanistan renounced the Durand Line in 1949.
Referring to Pakistan’s move, Trubnikov alleged: “It may be an attempt de facto to establish a border along the line, or an attempt to exert pressure on the Karzai administration so that it would take Pakistan’s interests more fully into account than those of some other participants in the anti-terrorist coalition and Afghanistan’s neighbours.”
He said: “Islamabad is also putting excessive emphasis on the development of ties between the Karzai administration and India.”
“India seeks to take part in the economic rehabilitation of Afghanistan and does so in a very consistent and transparent manner. So attempts by certain circles in Pakistan to use Afghanistan in its game with India are already raising concerns.”