Afghan Ambassador to India Shaida Mohammad Abdali is among the very few diplomats who have written candidly about the region. In an exclusive interview, he talks about the rise of violence, his sympathy for the Baloch cause and the trilateral talks to be held between India, the US and Afghanistan. Excerpts:
Post the visit of the Afghan army chief, where are the negotiations between the two countries?
Each meeting we have, we make progress. That includes the progress we made during the chief of army staff visit, where we discussed at length a lot of issues involving our defence cooperation. India, as always and perhaps more than any time before, offered its assistance increasingly in areas where we have required assistance. The army chief went back very happy. He will, of course, be visiting the list that we gave. The list which we gave in 2013 will need a revisit today. India will send a technical team in the near future to meet our technical staff in the defence and security institutions.
How would you see the US role in bringing India and Afghanistan closer?
Very helpful. It can play a very, very important role. But there is always a but, which is consistency, which is strategic approach, in the form of this trilateral to address long-term objectives. The long-term objectives are to ensure a stable, peaceful Afghanistan. And, by extension, ensuring a stable, peaceful region.
How do you assess the Islamic State threat in Afghanistan?
The situation has become such that Afghanistan should not be merely the country to always talk about the terrorism and ISIS, etc. Because, if you see the spillover effects and you see the threats and the challenges to the security we have, ISIS doesn’t just focus only on Afghanistan. ISIS is planning to spill over and do what they do beyond us. Therefore, there should be a uniform approach to counter all these elements. Their goal is to destabilise the region. You have seen the synergy of these groups, they complement each other. If they complement each other, so why should we distinguish between a terrorist group named Talib, Haqqani, LeT or Daesh. Because in Afghanistan, we see the same people. We just see the change, the black flag instead of white. They all come from the same nest.
Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai has backed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement on Balochistan.
You have to ask my government in Kabul. We, as a nation, have suffered at the hands of state, non-state actors under various names—terrorism, Islam, whatever. All these tools to use against the people rather than the reason what they normally talk. So, as a nation, having suffered for so long, we don’t want to see suffering anywhere in the world. We hope to end the suffering whether it is in Balochistan, Kashmir or Afghanistan.
An independent Balochistan, the way it has been imagined, includes Afghan territory.
Afghanistan’s position on the Durand Line is something unchangeable. It will remain so. If anyone is trying to consider that in the context of using terrorism, or in the context of doing all sorts of things in order to achieve a goal in Afghanistan, that won’t be accepted. With regard to Afghanistan’s position on the Durand Line, it is something belonging to the people of both countries. Governments have no authority to deal with a situation that is so public, especially for the people living on both sides of the border. That will remain so.