Ghani, Tillerson Talk Tough on Pakistan

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Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Delhi’s Hyderabad House. Image Credit: PIB

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and US secretary of state Rex Tillerson spoke out strongly against Pakistan’s support for terrorist groups during their separate visits to Delhi this week.

Ghani met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as well as President Ram Nath Kovind and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday. Speaking at the Delhi-based think tank Vivekananda International Foundation, Ghani demanded Pakistan stop supporting the Taliban. He pointed out that the Taliban was a ‘spent political force’ after the American invasion in 2001, and blamed Pakistan’s sponsorship for the group’s revival.

‘Sanctuaries are provided, logistics are provided, training is provided, ideological bases are provided.’ Ghani added that ‘Pakistan has come to a juncture and it needs to make a choice’.

Ghani also rejected Pakistani claims that Afghanistan was allowing India to carry out subversion in Pakistan from its territory.

‘There are no secret Indian facilities, there is no destabilization of any neighbour from Afghanistan taking place, implicit or explicit collusion,’ Ghani said.

Ghani also said Afghanistan would not allow Pakistan access to Central Asia if it refused his country trade access to India through Wagah and Atari. On Sunday Ghani’s government announced it would block Pakistani trucks from crossing into Afghanistan citing the expiration of a trade agreement.

The Afghan President also reiterated his country could pursue a successful peace process by itself, citing the return of feared warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar to Kabul in May.

‘We would like a push factor from Pakistan vis-a-vis the Taliban, not a Pakistan-managed peace process,’ Ghani said.

That same day, President Kovind had also supported a peace process that was on Afghan terms. “India believes that whatever initiatives are taken for bringing peace in Afghanistan should be Afghan-led and Afghan-controlled,” he said.

However, we should note that Ghani’s statement came barely a week after Afghanistan held talks with the Taliban as part of the Pakistan-led Quadrilateral Coordination Group.

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External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj greets US secretary of state Rex Tillerson at South Block. Image Credit: US State Department via Flickr

A day after Ghani’s speech, US secretary of state met Modi and Swaraj. He said terrorist safe havens in Pakistan would not be tolerated while adding that the US would continue to work with Islamabad on this issue.

Separately, according to reporting from The Hindu’s Suhasini Haidar, Indian officials believe Tillerson came down hard on Pakistani officials the previous day in Islamabad.

‘There were no half-messages, as in the past. [The Trump administration] is behaving differently from other U.S. administrations, and we must recognise that,’ Haidar quoted an anonymous official as saying.

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