Karzai Extends Olive Branch To Pakistan
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris.
It was a rare display of public friendship. Today, the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan met in Islamabad. Afghan President Hamid Karzai's visit could signal greater cooperation between the two countries and a big step forward in the fight against the Taliban.
As NPR's Julie McCarthy reports, the meeting could mean a new commitment to challenge militants who use the countries' mountainous border as a base.
JULIE MCCARTHY: Besides a long border, Pakistan and Afghanistan share a long history of mutual suspicion. Recently, Pakistan has worried about Afghanistan's deepening involvement with India. Pakistan's archrival has developed close ties with the government of President Hamid Karzai, investing more than a billion dollars in rehabilitation of his war-ravaged country.
But today, President Karzai sought to assuage widespread unease about the growing influence of India next door.
President HAMID KARZAI (Afghanistan): India is a close friend of Afghanistan, but Pakistan is a brother of Afghanistan. Pakistan is a twin brother of Afghanistan. We're more than twins, we're conjoined twins. There is no separation. There cannot be a separation.
MCCARTHY: President Karzai said the daily deaths of innocent people and destruction of property in both countries were a reminder that their destinies were linked.
Pres. KARZAI: One day it's in the Khost, the next day it's in Kabul. One day it's in Kandahar, the next day it's in Peshawar. Therefore, we in Afghanistan are fully aware and recognize that without Pakistan and without this cooperation with Afghanistan, Afghanistan cannot be stable or peaceful.
MCCARTHY: Relations have been fraught with Afghan suspicions that Pakistan was undermining the government in Kabul. It was believed to be quietly supporting the Taliban eight years after they were ousted to promote Pakistan's influence in Afghanistan while limiting India's.
But Pakistan appears to be taking a harder line against the Taliban now. It's picked up a half a dozen Afghan Taliban leaders from Pakistani cities, including the group's operations chief, Mullah Baradar, perhaps to ensure that Pakistan will have a role in any sort of Afghan peace process.
President Karzai today reassured Pakistan that it has an important role to play in any reconciliation process in Afghanistan.
But Rustum Shah Mohmand, Pakistan's former ambassador to Kabul, says Karzai's government is not capable of any meaningful peace overtures.
Mr. RUSTUM SHAH MOHMAND: Not at all because the (unintelligible) government is not really in a position to mount any peace offensive, because they are intensely disliked by the people. And the government is there because of the coalition forces. They are not free agents and they don't really decide on major policy issues.
MCCARTHY: But President Karzai warned that no country would be allowed to use Afghanistan territory against another neighbor.
Pres. KARZAI: The bottom line there is that Afghanistan does not want any proxy wars on its territory. It does not want a proxy war between India and Pakistan on Afghanistan. It does not want a proxy war between Iran and the United States on Afghanistan. It does not want any big or small country, neighbor or afar, to engage in any activity against another nation in Afghanistan.
MCCARTHY: Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said that the extradition of captured Afghan Taliban was discussed with President Karzai today, but he did not sound as if Pakistan is in any hurry to turn them over.
Prime Minister YOUSUF RAZA GILANI (Pakistan): We have our own judiciary and they're quite active, and we are consulting the legal experts too, and we'll then get back to the honorable president.
MCCARTHY: The two countries are key to American efforts to challenge the Taliban. If they are moving closer, it seems only cautiously.
Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Islamabad.