The departure of Nato combat forces from Afghanistan could push India and Pakistan towards a proxy war in the troubled nation, General Pervez Musharraf (Retd) warned in an interview with AFP. As Pakistan’s ruler, Musharraf was a key US ally in its “war on terror”, but he now lives under tight security in his Karachi home, facing Taliban death threats and a series of criminal cases dating back to his near decade-long rule that ended in 2008.
The 71-year-old – who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999 – praised new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who made his first official trip to Pakistan last week to try to reset fractious relations. But the former strongman said calming tension between India and Pakistan – running high at the moment after some of the worst cross-border firing in years – is key to peace in Afghanistan. “The danger for Pakistan is… the Indian influence in Afghanistan,” he told AFP at his house in Karachi. “That is another danger for the whole region and for Pakistan because Indian involvement there has an anti-Pakistan connotation. They [India] want to create an anti-Pakistan Afghanistan.”
“If Indians are using some elements of the ethnic entities in Afghanistan, then Pakistan will use its own support for ethnic elements, and our ethnic elements are certainly Pashtuns,” Musharraf said. “So we are initiating a proxy war in Afghanistan. This must be avoided.” Musharraf blamed India for supporting separatist rebels in Balochistan via training camps in southern Afghanistan.
But Musharraf warned that regional rivalries could flourish again once Nato’s 34,000-strong combat contingent leaves by the end of next month. “When there is an absence of all these forces, then yes there would be a vacuum… in that case there can be more serious repercussion,” he said. Musharraf said he stands by his decision to ally Pakistan with Washington in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. But he said that the US-led coalition which invaded Afghanistan to oust the Taliban had “failed to convert a military victory into a political victory” when it handed power to Tajiks and thereby alienated many Pashtuns.