ISLAMABAD, Nov 29: Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi on Thursday said that Islamic Republic of Iran was averse to the idea of deployment of foreign troops in Afghanistan, saying “it could prove counter-productive.”
“We have rejected the idea of deploying foreign troops in Afghanistan because of its highly sensitive nature,” said Mr Kharrazi in an interview with Dawn. Mr Kharrazi had arrived here on a two-day official visit earlier in the day.
The question posed to Mr Kharrazi was that whether Iran was apprehensive about the presence of the United States troops close to its borders.
The Iranian minister, who had already met Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar, said that regional situation was an important item on the agenda of their talks. Mr Kharrazi is meeting President Gen Pervez Musharraf on Friday.
Commenting on the United Nations initiative for the establishment of a broad-based government in Kabul, the Iranian minister said: “I believe after so many years of civil war, it is time for reconciliation and establishment of a broad-based government.”
It was a goal of the United Nations and a goal of Islamic Republic of Iran. Peace and tranquillity could return to Afghanistan only through the establishment of a broad-based government, he emphasized.
Mr Kharrazi saw no divergence between the views of Pakistan and Iran over the idea of setting up a broad-based government in Kabul. In reply to a direct question to the effect, he said: “I think everybody is looking forward for a stable government in Kabul.”
He admitted that there had been differences between Iran and Pakistan over the question of supporting the Taliban. “We had been saying that it could not be a lasting policy, and sooner or later you have to change your policy.
“Now it is quite understandable that Pakistan has changed its policy, and Iran and Pakistan can work together for a stable government in Afghanistan.”
About Iran’s role in bringing the Northern Alliance and Pakistan together, he said what was important was that there should be friendly relations not only among all parties and factions but also with all the neighbours.
When asked about the perception that Afghanistan is still a tribal society and a broad-based government formed through tribal traditions would not be democratic in character, he said, “if the government in Afghanistan is representative of different ethnic groups it does not mean contradiction of democracy; in fact, it is a manifestation of democracy.”
He said how the objective of forming a broad-based government would be achieved was still to be determined. “Whether it is done through one-man one-vote or through Loya Jirga, is still to be decided,” he added.
In reply to a question who would choose the members of Loya Jirga, he said the Afghans had their own traditional way of electing members of Loya Jirga.
Mr Kharrazi said that negotiations for finding ways and means of setting up a broad-based government were still going on.
As regards differences between Iran and the United States over the question which route should Central Asian oil and gas reserves take to come into the world market, he said there were several alternatives and anyone of these could be taken to bring oil and gas reserves of Central Asia to the Arabian Sea. He, however, added that the shortest possible route from Central Asia to Arabian Sea went through Iran. The Afghan- Pakistan route could also be considered, he said.
Mr Kharrazi pointed out that a feasibility study was yet to be carried out to determine the economic viability of different alternative routes that were available for marketing these reserves.
Asked how he saw the future role of Iran and Pakistan in the reconstruction of Afghanistan, he said: “It has to be cooperative.” He said the two countries should avoid competing roles even in the Central Asian region. About Russia, he said, “they are also part of the region,” and called for regional cooperation for establishment of peace in the region.
He cited the example of Tajikistan, where, he said, reconciliation had been achieved through cooperation of both Russia and Iran.
Asked if Pakistan would have a special relationship with Afghanistan because of its long border with that country, its transit trade arrangement with Afghanistan and also because of its own significant Pakhtoon population, Mr Kharrazi said that Iran was aware of these facts.
He said he did not know if being a country with the sea outlets Iran also had the same kind of transit trade arrangement with Afghanistan as did Pakistan but confirmed that a lot of goods did pass via Iran to Afghanistan.
On concerns in Pakistan about India demanding a role in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s past experience with Indian presence in Kabul where it had encouraged elements promoting the cause of Pakhtoonistan, the Iranian minister said he was confident that eventually the problems between Pakistan and India would be resolved.
He stressed upon the need for dialogue between Islamabad and Delhi, and remarked that Prime Minister Vajpayee’s visit to Lahore and President Musharraf’s visit to India were gestures in the right direction.
Asked if the Taliban were created by the US in 1994 to counter what was then perceived as an Iranian threat to export its revolution, Mr Kharrazi said that if that was so then it is now clear that it was a bad policy and it has failed.