‘Afghans must take the call’ – Indian FM

India’s Foreign Minister, has emphasized the need for people to work together to end the violence in Afghanistan, from where US forces are expected to withdraw from the theater of battle in 2014.

RT’s exclusive interview with Salman Khurshid kicked off with the security situation in Afghanistan, where the US military is expected to withdrawal the bulk of its troops in 2014 following an 11-year military operation.

Khurshid emphasized that the Afghan people themselves must “decide the alternatives” to put in place when the US forces withdraw.

“We feel - and I think this is a position we share with Russia - is that Afghanistan must take the call,” Khurshid said.

“They decide the pace; they must decide the alternatives to put in place when the US forces withdraw.”

Khurshid then touched upon the possibility of a residual US military force staying behind. While many countries in the region, including Russia, have expressed concern as to what purpose a contingency US military presence might be in Afghanistan, the Indian minister emphasized that US public opinion is “strongly against their staying on,” yet there remain questions as to what extent “the US will stay on even after it withdrawals its operational troops.”

Asked whether Afghanistan is capable of fighting terrorism alone and without the participation of US forces, Khurshid expressed the opinion that the fight must be carried out by the people.

“Whether it’s terrorism or any form of unwholesome opposition to elected government, ultimately it has to be done by the people themselves as represented by the government,” the Indian FM said.“In order to get an inclusive peace, a sustainable model within Afghanistan…is something that we all support.”

The conversation then moved onto the question of what role the Taliban may play in the new power structure in Afghanistan and whether or not India considers the Islamic fundamentalist political group a threat.

Explaining that a distinction has been drawn between “al-Qaeda and the Taliban” and the “good Taliban and the bad Taliban,” Kurshid explained that if there is to be “an inclusive settlement within Afghanistan, and the Afghan High Peace Council and the Afghan people feel that some form of inclusivity will provide sustainability to a peace agreement, then of course we will go along.”

Some analysts believe that some sort of peace may be made with the Taliban by granting them participation in Afghanistan’s fledgling political process.

Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid (AFP Photo)

Syria: Turning the chemical corner?

On the recent question of the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria, Khurshid advised that the global community should objectively approach the situation, hoping to bring to an end the years-long conflict between militant anti-government forces and those loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad .

“I think we should not allow our personal preferences and ideologies to influence an objective decision that has to be taken,” Kurshid advised.

“I think (the claims of chemical weapons being used) should be investigated, and that should be taken to its natural conclusion. I don’t think this should be allowed to be overwhelmed by a general proposition without substantiation and without necessary evidence.” In March, the Syrian government and Syrian militants exchanged accusations about a lethal attack in the northern Province of Aleppo, in which each side accused the other of resorting to chemical weapons use.

To date, no proof of the claims has surfaced that implicates either side in the alleged attacks.

Khurshid warned against blowing the incident out of proportion

“without substantiation and without the necessary evidence.” US President Barack Obama has said that the use of chemical weapons by Syria on its people would be a

“red line,” requiring some sort of intervention on the part of Washington.

Khurshid warned against the use of force to resolve the situation in Syria, “despite all the pressure that a group of countries that support action against Syria or the Syrian government have been putting on the United States.” 

"The use of force has not been good for anybody, least of all the United States of America" , he added.

In response to the question as to whether Syria would be able to avoid a military confrontation in the future, Khurshid held out of hope for a diplomatic resolution.

“We will continue to hope that dialogue is the way out of this very difficult situation,” he said. “We would continue to advocate a greater dialogue and giving dialogue gives opportunity.”AFP Photo / Miguel Medina

China, BRICS and global recession.

Questioned on the Chinese economy and whether India may be losing the race with its mighty neighbor, Khurshid remained positive. Describing China as “healthy competition,” the Indian FM said one of the most dynamic countries in the world will help to assure that “we won’ be lazy.”“Our business will be on its toes, and we would want to produce better and go further and offer better opportunities,” he said.

“That’s part of the marketplace philosophy. So we don’t see (China) as a problem. We see that as an opportunity.” China and India, despite their many differences, are allies in the major regional organization, known as BRICS (an economic organization made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa that represent some 3 billion people worldwide).

“Obviously, it’s a growing concept. The idea was a visionary idea and a lot of people doubted it as well. But I think that now we’ve done one round of summits, it’s becoming clear that there is an enormous potential.” According to the minister, the fact that the West is beginning to express an interest and concern in BRICS means that “the impact and effectiveness of our collaboration is beginning to make sense to people, is beginning to become apparent to people.” Asked whether BRICS can serve as a counterweight to NATO, the EU and western conglomerates, Khurshid quibbled over semantics.

The use of the word ‘counterweight’ may “alarm people, it would cause negative concerns… I think we want to be partners…in peace and prosperity, and whatever it takes to have that partnership grow forward I think should come forth from everybody, including countries in the BRICS.”A general view shows delegates attending the closing session of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing (AFP Photo / Liu Jin)

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.