Pakistan's ambassador to Germany, Abdul Basit, has told DW Islamabad wants Kabul and the Taliban to reach a peace agreement by the end of 2014. He says India should not use Afghanistan to destabilize his country.
Abdul Basit, Pakistan's ambassador to Germany, has recently been appointed as Secretary Foreign Affairs in Islamabad. He has been Islamabad's ambassador to Germany since May 2012, and has held several diplomatic positions in different countries. In an interview with DW, Basit talks about Pakistan's relations with Afghanistan and the future of peace talks with the Taliban militants.
DW: Some experts believe that the US-Afghan security deal, which was recently approved by the Afghan Loya Jirga, is a setback for Pakistan. Do you agree with this view?
Abdul Basit: It is a bilateral deal between Kabul and Washington. We cannot comment on it. What I can say is that if this agreement can bring peace to the region then we have no issues with it. However, only time will tell if it is good or bad for Afghanistan.
What is the future of talks with the Taliban?
Afghanistan is going through a very difficult phase. It is true that the efforts to bring peace and stability to the war-torn country have received a blow. I don't want to blame anyone for it though. Pakistan wants the Taliban and the Afghan government to reach a peace agreement by December 2014. A lot of efforts are being made to make this happen. The focus of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's recent Pakistan visit was also on negotiations with the Taliban, and on his insistence we released the Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Baradar and some other Taliban commanders. The Afghan High Peace Council delegation was also in Pakistan last week, and Prime Minister Sharif will soon visit Kabul.
What role can the released Taliban commanders play in peace negotiations?
Only the Taliban leaders can answer this question. We are not directly connected to them. It is a sensitive and complicated matter, and I do not think that its details should be made public. I would like to refrain from commenting on this issue. All I can say is that it is an ongoing process.
Is Pakistan worried about the growing influence of India in Afghanistan?
Afghanistan and India are two sovereign states. It is up to them what kind of relations they want to have. We only want that Afghanistan should not be used to destabilize Pakistan. We are aware that the Afghan territory is being used to create unrest in our Balochistan province and some tribal areas.
Who do you blame for this?
I can't divulge details. PM Sharif discussed the matter with Indian Premier Manmohan Singh during the two leaders' meeting in New York in October. He told him that India was interfering in Balochistan. President Karzai has promised us that his country will not be used against Pakistan.
What does Pakistan mean by the "good" and the "bad" Taliban?
The peace talks have nothing to do with this kind of dichotomy. We have to build consensus on these talks. Pakistani political parties are in favor of the talks. The use of force against the Taliban hasn't worked at all. It is the responsibility of our government now to carry things forward.
Is this possible after the death of the Pakistani Taliban's former chief Hakimullah Mehsud's assassination in a US drone strike?
We are trying to start the talks. You will know when something happens.
Pakistan complains about the US drone strikes in its restive northwestern tribal areas. The US has obviously not halted them. What will be your strategy to convince the US to cease these attacks?
Prime Minister Sharif raised this issue with President Barack Obama in Washington last month. The international opinion is also turning against the use of drones. We believe that these strikes are not useful. It is possible that some al Qaeda and Taliban leaders get killed in these strikes but they cause more collateral damage. But what is more important is that the US drone attacks are against international law. International relations follow some principles and the strikes are violating them. We are using all diplomatic means to resolve this issue.
The interview was conducted by Imtiaz Ahmed in Frankfurt.