New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was interviewed on CNN by Zakaria in New Delhi. Edited excerpts:
When you look at Afghanistan, do you believe that the American presence there has contributed to stability and is contributing to stabilizing the situation?
Well, all I can say is, the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan created a major problem for the world, and that the disappearance of the Taliban regime is, indeed, a blessing for the global society, global polity.
Do you believe that there should be some kind of political outreach to the Taliban? Is there a political deal to be struck here?
Well, I think President (Hamid) Karzai, having been re-elected, it is his responsibility and his obligation to harmonize and to bring together all elements who can contribute to the construction and development of Afghanistan.
And I hope that he will rise to the occasion.
Has he done so, so far?
Well, I think there have been limited efforts before. And I sincerely—yesterday, in his inaugural address, he appealed to Dr (Abdullah) Abdullah and other elements to work with him.
Peaceful neighbourhood: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says India would like democracy to succeed and flourish in Pakistan. Subhav Shukla / PTI
So I hope that all elements of Afghan societies which are opposed to the terrorist elements can get together to give a purposeful government to the people of Afghanistan.
What is Pakistan’s objective in Afghanistan, in your view?
Well, I sometimes fear that Pakistan’s objectives are not necessarily in harmony with the US objectives. Pakistan sometimes feels that the Americans are short-term maximizers, that if the pressure continued, they will not have the courage to stay put, they will walk away, and that Afghanistan will become a natural backyard for Pakistan to influence its policies and programmes.
So you think they want an Afghanistan that is a Pakistani puppet?
Yes, I think that is—that appears to me.
Is it your sense that the Pakistani government and the Pakistani army are taking active measures to destroy the Afghan Taliban, as distinct from the Pakistani Taliban?
Well, who am I to judge? I think what secretary (Hillary) Clinton, when she was in Pakistan recently, I think she did ask, I think, publicly, that Quetta Shura, the leaders of Afghan Taliban—where are they? That cannot be unknown to the people in Pakistan. So that is an indication of things that are happening on the ground.
Do you think that the Pakistani army will ever take on the Afghan Taliban, those terrorist elements that attack not Pakistanis, but Afghans, Indians, perhaps Westerners?
I’m not certain that the Pakistan army will take on those elements.
Who do you think is running Pakistan right now?
Well, I think the most important force in Pakistan is the army. And there is democracy. We would like democracy to succeed and flourish in Pakistan. But we have to recognize that the power today rests virtually with the army.
Do you feel that you have a partner in Pakistan right now with whom you can negotiate?
Well, I don’t know whether we have a partner right now. I think when General (Pervez) Musharraf was there, I used to ask him. And he said, “Well, I am the army. I represent the Armed Forces. I represent the people.”
Now I don’t know who to deal with.
When you look at the situation in Pakistan, do you worry about the collapse of the state and the nuclear weapons moving into the hands of either some radical element within the army or terrorists?
Well, we worry about all these contingencies. But we have been assured by the Americans that they are satisfied that’s not going to happen.
Do you feel that Pakistan has done enough to bring to justice, and to give you intelligence about, the terrorists who planned the Mumbai attacks?
No, they have not done enough. They have taken some steps. Pakistan (said it) will do all that is possible to bring to justice the perpetrators of Mumbai massacre. But it’s our feeling that Pakistan has not done enough. Hafeez Sayeed is roaming around free. Maulana Azhar Masood and other terrorist elements, the Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is actively involved, according to Pakistan’s own admission, were actively involved in perpetrating this massacre in Mumbai.
They are moving around freely, because it’s very easy in Pakistan. So a friendly Pakistan, a government in Pakistan which would be equally determined to tackle terrorism would, I think, take the case to its logical conclusions.
But that has not happened.
Do you see any prospects for productive negotiations on Kashmir with Pakistan? Because you were quite close to some kind of a deal with President Musharraf before he had to leave office.
Well, I have publicly stated that there can be no redrawing of borders. But our two countries can work together to ensure that these are borders of peace, that people-to-people contacts grow in this manner in which people do not, I think, worry whether they are located on this side of the border or that side.
If trade is free—trade, people-to-people contacts and our both countries competing with each other to give a life of, to enable the people on both sides to lead a life of dignity and self-respect, those are issues which we can discuss. We can reach agreement.
Reproduced with permission from CNN.