Hamid Karzai had an eventful 13 years at the helm of Afghanistan. He became a dominant political figure after the removal of the Taliban after the 9/11 attacks in the US in 2001.
Faced with warring factions and a volatile neighbour, Pakistan, Karzai faced a challenge in keeping his country together. He speaks about some of the challenges in an interview at the 12th HT Leadership Summit.
In your 13 years as president of Afghanistan, what was your most difficult moment with Pak, which is a source of terror?
The failure to make them recognize the dangers of terrorism. When I saw the first suicide bombings in Pakistan, I went there and sat with President Musharraf and said, 'We have suffered for so long, now you are beginning to suffer'. The non-reply from Pakistan has been the most difficult moment.
After the Abbotabad operation, what did you tell Islamabad especially since you were right about Osama bin Laden hiding in Pakistan, not Afghanistan?
I didn't go back with the question but kept pleading for sanity in our relationship. I also often spoke to Pakistan about India and about the need to engage with India.
You advocate a dialogue between India and Pakistan but the Narendra Modi government called off talks. Are you saying that was wrong?
No. India had to respond to a particular situation along the border. Civilians were being killed and India had to calibrate its response. Calling off talks is a measure of expressing anger. We have done that in Afghanistan too.
The Haqqani brothers and the Lashkar-e-Taiba operate freely in Afghanistan with support from Pakistan. Did it frustrate you? Should it frustrate India?
Very much. It was a source of bitter conversations between me and US leaders. Terrorism was not in our homes, but our homes and villages were being bombed. India too is right to be frustrated about this and should raise this issue vigorously… we have to work together to see that Pakistan is not a failed state.
You have dealt with both Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi. Can I ask you to compare them?
Both are sons of India who have contributed tremendously. I have dealt with PM Manmohan, a very honourable person. I have dealt with PM Modi too. Modi put forward the right questions.