Musharraf: Afghanistan Is 'Proxy Conflict' Between Pakistan and India

Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said he believes that Afghanistan has become the source of a proxy battle between his country and India.

"In Afghanistan there is some kind of a proxy conflict going on between Pakistan and India. India is trying to create an anti-Pakistan Afghanistan," he said in an interview with David Bradley, owner of the Atlantic Media Company, at the Washington Ideas Forum on Thursday. Musharraf, who led Pakistan from 1999 through 2008, said this was part of "India's vision of dominating the region" and its "ambition is to create a weak Pakistan."

Washington Ideas Forum - Full CoverageMusharraf, who was personally involved in Pakistan's conflicts against India, added that many Afghan officials are trained by their Indian counterparts. "We know that Afghanistan's intelligence, Afghanistan's diplomats, Afghanistan's soldiers and army, they all go to India for training. Pakistan and I have offered them free training. Not one man has come to Pakistan for training. So we receive diplomats, soldiers, intelligence officers indoctrinated against Pakistan's interests." He urged calming the relationship, however. "I have been called in India that I am a man of war," he said. "But I am a man for peace. I understand the ravages of war, which maybe very few people understand."

Asked about Pakistan's relationship with the U.S., Musharraf acknowledged it had declined but said top-level ties had been strong under his leadership. "I think in my time, there's no doubt in my mind, we had a degree of trust and confidence, and I think inter-state relations have a lot to do with inter-presonal relations between the leaders." He cites his good personal relationship with President George W. Bush and members of his administration. "If there were any doubts or misunderstandings I could ring them up and talk directly," he said. "I wonder whether that exists now, that understanding and mutual confidence." Musharraf warned that a "breakdown" in top-level personal ties could in turn damage the larger U.S.-Pakistan relationship.



However, when Bradley asked Musharraf about Pakistanis' view of the U.S., the former president said the U.S. has a "pro-India tilt" that is "seen extremely negatively by the people of Pakistan." He added, "We have been used and then betrayed, that is the feeling of the people of Pakistan."

Musharraf, who has been deluged with questions about Osama bin Laden's recent discovery in Pakistan, insisted he'd had no knowledge that the al-Qaeda chief was living in Abottabad. "Whether anyone in this hall believes it or not, I did not know. I am 500 percent sure I did not know," he said. The Pakistani military, which maintains a large base a few miles from bin Laden's compound, was guilty of "negligence," he said, but not "complicity."



He added that many Americans misunderstood the nature of Abottabad. "People misread that this was a garrison town. Abottabad is a town of about 500,000, roughly. This is a tourist resort." He also discussed bin Laden's compound there, which many critics have suggested the military would have surely known about. "I am very sorry to say that I have seen this on television, but you don't have walls around your houses. In Pakistan, every house has a wall. And I don't see on television that anything is unusual in these walls. So I don't see anything unusual in this house." He also dismissed suggestions that bin Laden was a "bargaining chip" for Pakistan to use with the U.S. "Why wouldn't I have used this as a bargaining chip in my time, if I knew this man was with us."

Musharraf concluded by saying Americans would be wrong to believe that the Pakistani military had been complicit with keeping bin Laden safe in Pakistan. "We must not believe that this is complicity because that would be very serious. That would mean we are not together in the war on terror."

Full transcript of the Musharraf session:

FORMER PAKISTAN PRESIDENT PERVEZ MUSHARRAF PARTICIPATES IN 

A DISCUSSION AT THE NEWSEUM, THE ATLANTIC, AND THE ASPEN 

INSTITUTE 2011 WASHINGTON IDEAS FORUM


OCTOBER 6, 2011

SPEAKERS:  FORMER PAKISTAN PRESIDENT PERVEZ MUSHARRAF


DAVID BRADLEY,

ATLANTIC MEDIA COMPANY


[*]


Good morning, everyone.  


I was struck as I began to do just background reading by this fact.  President Musharraf is exactly 10 years older than I am.  The volume of what he's worked into his 68 years so surpasses my 58 years.  

Let me give you a (inaudible) that volume.  So born in 1943.  That's four years before the great partition of India and Pakistan.  President Musharraf's earliest memories were being on that night train traveling to Pakistan as it was being created as a country.  They arrived, lived with 18 people in a two-room apartment.  

The family moved to Ankara, Turkey, where President Musharraf learned Turkish.  He came back and was not a model citizen in high school.  He created -- I have three teenage boys, something I don't -- I'm not favorably disposed to -- small time bombs during his high school years.  


Then was in the military, career military, was chief of the Army Staff, the 13th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and then, in an odd and surprising bloodless coup, became CEO and then president of Pakistan.

There have been six assassination attempts.  He has fought in two wars.  He is in one marriage, two daughters, two Pekingese dogs.  It is only as to the dogs that my life has been fuller and more exemplary.  



Let me begin with that odd bloodless coup.  Just tell us a story.  You were -- it's 1999, you were overseas. 

MUSHARRAF:  Yes.  Yes I was.  I was in Sri Lanka.  And I returned from there.  When I returned I -- I was traveling in a normal commercial flight.  We had about, I think, 300 passengers or 250 passengers.  I think 90 of them were school students.


And as we approached Karachi and we were -- we came down to about 8,000 feet, the pilot called me to the cockpit, through my military (inaudible) it's very important.  And, when I went there, he told me that we are not being allowed to land and we've been told to rise -- go up to 21,000 feet.  And then they said that you cannot land in Pakistan, get out of Pakistan's airspace. 

Now, that was quite a shock, but I -- I presumed that this must involve me, obviously, why else would the second order be passed.  When we rose to 21,000 feet, initially, the pilot said that we can either go to an air field in -- on the -- in the Gulf or in India.  So that could be unimaginable for me to land in India as the army chief. 

So therefore, we -- when we rose to 21,000 feet I was told that we don't have fuel to go out of Pakistan now.  So I said, tell the people -- I was not in contact with anyone ground, absolutely, so this negotiation between the pilot and the air traffic controller started to allow us to land there.  

He was taking about five, six minutes because he was, I think, passengers passing messages directly to the prime minister of Pakistan and then getting messages back what to say.  So this was taking a lot of time and I told him to land in Karachi irrespective of the permission.  He said there are fire tenders on the runway so, therefore, we cannot land and all the lights have been switched off. 

So -- so I went back.  We were halfway and the pilot said we have just enough fuel, you take a decision immediately whether you want to go to Nawabshah or back to Karachi.  I said back to Karachi.  And when we landed we had only about eight minutes of fuel, and when I landed, well, I was in charge of Pakistan.

(LAUGHTER)

BRADLEY:  Many of us have had bad flights and not had it work out this well.  


(LAUGHTER)


So, let's roll forward a little bit.  It's 1999, we've moved forward to 2004.  There's a poll taken, global poll.  President Musharraf is the most popular president in the world.  We thought relations between the United States and Pakistan were strong. 

You were at least publicly supportive of President Bush, supportive of the United States and the war on terror.  We were spending $2 billion in security.  


Now you roll forward again to today, a poll in Pakistan shows that the United States is viewed as the number one external threat to the country.

If you talk to U.S. policymakers there's a very acute concern about the way Pakistan is going and whether it is a good ally.


So it seems to me the best thing that we could understand after a few minutes of talking with you is sort of what went wrong, from the Pakistani view, what went wrong?

So, let me start, when you were president, did you already see the relations slipping away between the United States and Pakistan?  

MUSHARRAF:  Well, now they are, yes.  But I think in my time there is no doubt in my mind we had a -- a degree of trust and confidence.  And I believe relations between states quite a lot to do with interpersonal relations.  Interstate relations have a lot to do with interpersonal relations between the leaders. 

And may I, very proudly, say that I had a relationship with President Bush and Secretary Colin Powell.  In that (inaudible) there were any doubts or misunderstandings we could ring up each other and talk directly.  And as General Colin Powell used to say, let's talk general to a general, and that used to be very, very straight upright talking.

So that used to resolve issues.  I wonder whether that exists now.  That understanding, that mutual confidence maybe is not there and, therefore, yes, there is a total breakdown of trust and confidence and that is what is harming the relationship.

BRADLEY:  And what do you think that the United States doesn't understand that makes Pakistan not trust us?  Let's do people on the street first.  What do we not understand about why they're upset? 

MUSHARRAF:  Because of history, but I wouldn't like to go into too much detail with the 20 minutes that we have.  


Firstly, of course, it has a history in the past.  We were strategic partners with the United States all along since our independence.  But, then -- and between '79 and '89 we were with the United States to fight against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.

But then in 1989, suddenly the United States decides to quit the area with no rehabilitation, no resettlement of the 25,000 Mujahedeen we brought.  And, when that happened, and there was a strategic policy shift of United States, sanctions on Pakistan and a pro-India tilt.

Now, this was seen extremely negatively by the people of Pakistan in that we have been used and then betrayed.  This is the feeling of the people of Pakistan.

BRADLEY:  And is there a feeling like that today? 

MUSHARRAF:  Yes. 

BRADLEY:  What is that based on?

MUSHARRAF:  The feeling now is that this happened and for 12 years we were totally abandoned, we were all alone fending for ourselves with whatever was happening in Afghanistan where the -- where the Mujahedeen  coalesced into Al Qaida, where the Taliban came up in 1996 and Pakistan was all alone, fending for itself. 

Then comes 9/11 and United States appears on the scene again.  We are again in the lead role.  Now the people were asking is, "How are you sure that we are not to be betrayed again, same thing will not happen, that we'll be used again and betrayed again?"

So these are -- this has a historical past which has led to -- to mistrust and antipathy against the United States at the people's level.  Till 1979 -- till 1989 everything was happening through Pakistan, so one has to judge, what happened beyond 1989.  And I have told you what happened beyond 1989.  


And now that we are planning to leave in 2014, that has its -- that has its impact on the people again.  Now -- now, Pakistan has to think.


Now, I'm not in governance, I'm not speaking on behalf of the government, but my personal view is that certainly there must be some analysis going on what will happen in Afghanistan if United States leaves an unstable Afghanistan.  Are we returning to the situation in 1989 when Afghanistan was ravaged and every ethnic group was fighting each other? 

Or are we returning to 1996 when it was two groups, Taliban versus Northern Alliance?  Northern Alliance of minority, Uzbek, Tajik, Hazaras.  


One of the two situations will certainly be there if you leave an unstable Afghanistan and its impact with directly, first of all, be on Pakistan, secondly to be on India, and then, of course, the world. 

So we have to be very conscious what are the implications of quitting in a situation which is unstable in Afghanistan?  So we have to analyze all this and the impact on Pakistan. 

BRADLEY:  Frame for us -- I think it's hard for Americans to understand the frame through which so many Pakistanis view this relationship.  


I mean -- let me do that over.  The significance of India in the framing of Pakistani thought.  What is the concern that Pakistan has and is it its largest concern and do you think we don't understand that? 

MUSHARRAF:  Yes.  You are -- I wouldn't imagine that you don't understand, but I can say that you maybe show a lack of concern.  


There is an issue with India certainly.  We've fought wars, there's a Kashmir dispute, the (inaudible) dispute, et cetera, which is terrible and which I strongly believe has to be resolved.  I am a strong believer that we have to resolve our disputes and have peace.  


I have been called in India at that time a man of war because I have, yes, I have fought two wars and I am a military man and a soldier.  But I have always been saying that I am a man of war, but I am a man for peace because I understand the ravages of war, which maybe very few people understand, because my son is named after my best friend, who got killed in action.


So, therefore, I understand ravages, how much you suffer in war.  So, therefore, I am a man for peace.


Having said that...

BRADLEY:  What do you think India's...

MUSHARRAF:  Yes?

BRADLEY:  What do you think India's ambition is? 

MUSHARRAF:  Yes, now, having said that, there is, unfortunately, always over the past decades, since 1950, since our independence, a tussle between the two intelligence organization and the two countries, which means RAW on one side, ISI on the other side, and this has been happening all over these decades. 

Now, this must go if we must resolve dispute.  Now, in the late history, the past three or four years, this manifestation is in Afghanistan.  In Afghanistan there is some kind of a proxy conflict going on between Pakistan and India.  India is trying to create an anti-Pakistan Afghanistan. 

BRADLEY:  Why?  What's it's ambition? 

MUSHARRAF:  It's ambition must be to weaken Pakistan, to -- to have a weak Pakistan so that it can be dominated, so that it doesn't have any confrontationist attitude, which doesn't go well its -- with India's vision of dominating the region and maybe being a -- one of the -- if not a -- if not a world power, at least a regional power. 

BRADLEY:  It's not a military concern, it's a preeminence, trade...

MUSHARRAF:  Yes, it can -- I mean, dominance in todays' world, I think, dominating a country or moving against a country doesn't mean that they want to take over Pakistan.  I don't think that can happen.  After all, they helped Bangladesh get independence.  They haven't taken over Bangladesh.  But it implies dominating their foreign policy, dominating their economic policies, their trade, their commerce.

So, that is way how you -- how you suppress, how you -- how you control or dominate another country. 

BRADLEY:  And where does this problem rank in your concerns?  Is this the largest concern you have? 

MUSHARRAF:  Largest concern?

BRADLEY:  In foreign policy concerns. 

MUSHARRAF:  Well, it's not such a great concern, if at all we don't have this problem to Afghanistan.  We know that Afghanistan's intelligence, Afghanistan's diplomats, Afghanistan's soldiers, all the army, security people, they all go to India for training.  

Pakistan and I had offered them training facilities free of cost in Pakistan, to all of them.  Not one man has come to Pakistan for training.  They go to India.  So, therefore, we receive intelligence, diplomats, soldiers indoctrinated against Pakistan's interests. 

So, this is what we must understand must stop.  India must stop it and the United States must understand Pakistan's concern what is happening in Afghanistan.  


So, therefore, these are (inaudible).  I would say that United States needs to understand Pakistan's sensitivities.  I see that there is a lack of concern for Pakistan's sensitivities. 

BRADLEY:  Let me -- let me switch it the other way, tell you two issues we don't understand, both of which I know you can speak to easily.  


The first one is where bin Laden was found.  If he was there for five years, and we don't know that he was there for five years, he would have been there during your presidency. 

I've heard you speak on this.  Explain why you don't believe the ISI or the army knew his location. 

MUSHARRAF:  Yes, I think this is a critical issue and it's terrible.  Let me, first of all, admit it's a -- it's a terrible thing that happened.  It has to be clarified by Pakistan because people, I know, do not believe.  


That there was an issue of complicity versus negligence.  That is the issue.  Was Pakistan complicit or was it negligence?  I, personally, through all my analysis say it was not complicity, it was negligence.  


Now, why do I say that?  If I was, briefly, to give some rationale or reasoning, first of all, if he was there for five years, that means two years of his tenure was in my time.  

So, whether anyone in this hall believes it or not, I did not know.  So, therefore, I am 500 percent sure that I didn't know.  So, therefore, there is no complicity.  So, there was no complicity in those two years.  


Now, let's come to those -- these three years.  I don't think there was complicity because, first of all, nobody in that area knew that it is  Osama bin Laden inside.  All the Pakistani television channels, which are very, very independent today in Pakistan, over 50, 60 of them, have interviewed people around.  None of them ever -- not one of them said that we knew Osama bin Laden is inside.   


When he is not using any communication, you are banking on human intelligence, and human intelligence is what people are telling you around.  So that was not the case. 

Secondly, people -- a lot of people here think that this house was -- had such high walls, such a huge house.  I'm very sorry to say that I've seen this on television, I haven't seen the house there physically, but, you don't have walls around your houses.  In Pakistan every house has a wall.  And I don't see in television, with full honesty, that this is anything unusual in the height of those walls.

And, I don't see in that house to be anything unusual.  It's a slightly better, slightly bigger house than an average house.  So I don't see anything unusual in this.  


And then, thirdly, if at all he was there, there would have been some security around.  Would such an important personality be left alone unguarded by anyone, free to go and come, come and go?  

Why wouldn't he be used as a bargaining leverage, bargaining chip?  Why wouldn't I have used it as a bargaining chip in my time if I knew this man is with us?  


So, therefore, I think it's the pure case -- another point.  People are -- misread -- people misread that this was a garrison town.  Abbottabad  is a town of about 500,000 roughly.  It's -- it's a tourist resort.  It's a hill resort.  People go and stay there in hotels. 

It's absolutely open.  Anyone going to the mountains in northern areas goes through Abbottabad.  All civilians and military is mixed.  The garrisons, the training centers are open for people to go and come, use their messes, it's open.  


So, therefore, it's not a garrison, a walled place or a fenced place that we are talking of.

So, therefore, it was not complicity.  It is a terrible case of negligence, which must be explained by Pakistan.  But it's the onus of explanation to the world, to the United States, lies with Pakistan.  Why was there such serious negligence?


But we must not believe that it was complicity because that would be very serious.  That means maybe we are not together in the war against terror. 

BRADLEY:  So, because we're out of time, let me explain that President Musharraf is under an arrest warrant in Pakistan, but intends to go back to Pakistan in March of 2012 and intends to win the presidential election in 2013. I will be returning to my office where I'll be very, very busy with important things, and when we see you next you'll have lived another adventure.  Thank you so much for coming. 

MUSHARRAF:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  Thank you. Thank you very much. 

(APPLAUSE) 


END



View the full session at FORA.tv

Presented by

Max Fisher is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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