Return to Transcripts main page


Af-Pak-India U.N. Ambassadors

Aired October 22, 2009 - 15:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, three nations linked by geography and history, but divided by bitter rivalry. We've convened an unprecedented roundtable, a joint interview with the ambassadors representing all three countries.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour. Welcome to the program.

India, Pakistan and Afghanistan are on the front lines of one of the great struggles of modern times, the conflict with radical religion and terrorism, in a region that's bristling with nuclear weapons.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban is trying to overthrow a weak government which is struggling to maintain credibility with its people. In Pakistan, the army is on the offensive against the Taliban there after an unprecedented string of bombings that reached right into the heart of power. And India is still reeling from the terrorist attack on Mumbai last year launched by extremists from Pakistan. They face off across a shared border. Both countries have already fought three conventional wars, and both now have nuclear weapons, and they remain deadlocked over Kashmir.

When it comes to actual diplomacy, these three countries have no trilateral relationship and don't sit around the same table, but tonight we've persuaded them to sit for a joint interview.

So joining me now, the Afghan ambassador to the United Nations, Dr. Zahir Tanin; Pakistan's ambassador to the U.N., Abdullah Hussain Haroon; and also joining us here in the studio, the Indian ambassador to the U.N., Hardeep Singh Puri.

Gentlemen, welcome. Thank you so much for joining us.

Now, this is quite rare. How do you all get on in your respective missions at the United Nations and -- and when you come into contact?

HARDEEP SINGH PURI, INDIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: We -- we get on very well. I'm surprised that there is an impression that problems which continue to linger in our part of the world -- you mentioned terrorism as one of those -- that that -- that should separate us. In fact, the personal...

AMANPOUR: So it doesn't?

PURI: ... the personal relations between the three of us are excellent. And I think we've put our heads together to, you know, try and get solutions wherever we can.

AMANPOUR: And how does that work? How do you get solutions when, in fact, it's hard to get the diplomats around the same table?

ABDULLAH HUSSAIN HAROON, PAKISTANI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: No, it's not really. As Hardeep said and as Zahir, we meet very often. We all come from the same crucible, the same history, the same background. There may be minor differences. Of course, there is amongst people. But I think all three of us are well intentioned. We all believe that these countries should get together and try and sort out this situation. And it will lead the powers and these efforts of all to help each other get through this difficult phase.

AMANPOUR: And, Ambassador Tanin, how does it -- how does it work? You know, they are big problems, particularly cross-border problems between Afghanistan and Pakistan right now. How do you think the leadership can get around to this kind of conviviality that we're seeing here?

DR. ZAHIR TANIN, AFGHAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: That's -- what is happening, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, they share one goal, how to fight terrorism, how to have a stable region. They also -- we also are facing a shared common challenge that is terrorism and extremism, as you say it. And we know that, three of us. We work here together. And I'm sure that is the same understanding amongst all the leaders in Kabul, Islamabad and Delhi.

AMANPOUR: Can I ask you particularly about this, the terrorism? Obviously, if you could deploy all your troops, it wouldn't be that difficult to so-called slaughter the bad guys, but so many of your troops are also facing off against what you consider an existential threat from India, so they're deployed elsewhere. Right now, you've got some 30,000 fighting the Taliban and in this new offensive.

Is there a way, for instance, that you, from India, could persuade Pakistan that, in fact, India is not a threat and release Pakistan's forces or allow Pakistan to be able to devote all its military resources to the major, major offensive at hand, the major threat at hand?

PURI: Christiane, isn't the restraint that India has exercised post- Mumbai eloquent? I think this is a question that should be addressed to my friend, Haroon, because I would like to think that in all our conversations and in all the contacts that Pakistan has had with India, including in New York recently, the message which has come across is, look, we are all in a joint fight against those forces, the terrorists. All that we would like to see if all of us taking the actions required against the perpetrators of these crimes.

But there is no suggestion ever that a diversion of Pakistani military assets from one border to the other to fight the people who really need to be fought would result in any Indian adventurism. I don't think that's the kind of ambience that we are presently in.

AMANPOUR: Ambassador Haqqani, is Pakistan convinced of...

HAROON: I'm not Haqqani, I'm afraid.

AMANPOUR: Ambassador Haroon?

HAROON: I think that the Indian ambassador is absolutely right. For quite a while now, we are aware that India is not -- at one stage, there were a few exercises taking place. We sort of merely asked, "Is this something more than that?" And the -- they moved away.

I think there is a very definite indication that there is no hostility meant. And I think the meetings between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, President Zardari, Prime Minister Gilani, and now one that will happen most probably in the commonwealth conference, is indicative of the fact that they are talking to each other and they had many offers of senior ranks for talking to each other, as well.

AMANPOUR: So I -- I posed a question to you. I wanted to pose a similar question to you in terms of what the government can do to persuade India that, for instance, some of the terrorists who go across, for instance, in -- in Mumbai, are not, in fact, supported, condoned, or in any way part of your government policy, despite the fact that they're coming from Pakistan?

HAROON: You know, Christiane, that over time people change. There might have been people at some stage who could have been accused of what you have said. But for the very clear distance of the last many years, that can't be possible, whether it was the previous regime or this regime. I think there is a different policy (ph).

And more than that, I think that, with the sort of leadership that you have in the Pakistan army at the moment, there can be no question that the government acknowledging in these things. There could be accusations of perhaps a little more effort here or there, but what you said earlier I answer now. The Pakistani government and its troops are stretched very considerably and are short of very many things that were promised by Western powers and others to be provided in this fight, which hasn't been.

Yet we went into Swat without that help coming in. We've gone into Waziristan without that help coming in. This shows the change in policy. This shows the intention of the government. And it shows the merit of the army for what it's doing.

AMANPOUR: Let me turn to -- to you, Ambassador. What do you think your government can do to persuade, for instance, the United States, NATO, others that actually they do have a partner, particularly with this debate going on about troops, strategy, et cetera, that actually the United States and NATO countries who are fighting and dying in Afghanistan has a credible partner?

TANIN: You mean in Afghanistan?


TANIN: I think the idea to have a credible partner, a full partner is something that is important and we recognize the importance of that for the United States, for the United States public opinion, and for the constituencies of -- of the -- of President Obama.

But I think in the last eight years, there was a partner, and that partner was recognized widely -- not only by the United States, by the whole international community -- as legitimate or a relied -- as a reliable partner.

Nowadays, after these elections, I think both the leadership in Afghanistan and our friends and partners focused on how the new elections will bring more legitimacy to Afghanistan. So we are not against that debate, and this is why the Afghan leader, Hamid Karzai, accepted putting aside his convictions the result of the first round, which was less than 50 percent, very little less than 50 percent, because he -- he -- he understood that it is important for the public opinion in the West, it's important for the sake of keeping Afghan alliance with its friends and partners, and also for the sake of national unity to go toward the second round, which should bring a more legitimate and credible partner as expected and -- and talked about in Afghanistan.

AMANPOUR: All right. Thank you. We will continue this right after a break, so stay with us. And our conversation will continue in a moment. Also, online, find out more about fighting in South Waziristan by going to our Web site,

Next, why is everyone worried about this? It's because of Pakistan and India's nuclear weapons in part, when we come back.



HAMID KARZAI, PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN: I would request our brothers and sisters in Pakistan to count on us in the best possible manner that Afghanistan will go along in order to eventually provide a life of peace and prosperity to both countries.

ASIF ALI ZARDARI, PRESIDENT OF PAKISTAN: Pakistani democracy will deliver. The terrorists will be defeated by our joint struggle. And here, me, my friend, President Karzai, and the United States assure the world that we will stand shoulder to shoulder with the world to fight this cancer and this threat.


AMANPOUR: Those were the presidents of Pakistan and Afghanistan speaking earlier this year at the White House regional summit. And joining me again now, Ambassador Tanin of Afghanistan, Ambassador Haroon of Pakistan, and Ambassador Puri of India.

So, for the last eight or so months, we've had an Af-Pak strategy. Many, many people say it should be Af-Pak-In, India into this, as well.

PURI: You know -- you know our views on this.

AMANPOUR: That you don't like it?

PURI: Well, I don't think we accepted it then, and I'm not likely to agree this -- this afternoon with you, because these problems are relayed through those two countries, all right? To the extent that we have...

AMANPOUR: Which is mostly Kashmir.

PURI: I don't think it's Kashmir. I think its problems are related to Pakistan and Afghanistan, in terms of what is happening on the Pakistan and Afghanistan border. All right. If you want to enlarge the canvas, then -- you know, that would be quite a lot of enlargement taking place, but that's an American approach. Yes, a very senior American public figure is engaged in implementing that strategy. We have our conversations with him in India or whatever, and that's the extent and limit of our involvement in that.

AMANPOUR: Can I ask you about this? Because there have been lots -- there has been lots written. And a former president of Pakistan has also talked about this particular enlarging issue, as you say, of Kashmir. There had been some movement according to President Musharraf that was quite -- quite pronounced regarding a resolution of Kashmir. And then each time this happens, it gets scuffled at the last moment or something -- something goes wrong for some reason.

Do you think that there is any chance to re-energize that? Is there any movement in that direction?

PURI: The reference -- the reference you make is to president -- the former president of Pakistan...

AMANPOUR: That's right.

PURI: ... President Musharraf and to a back channel which was in operation. But you know what happened? There were political developments, and President Musharraf himself was no longer part of the political dispensation.

But the issue of contacts between the two, yes, there have been contacts. Our prime minister had contacts with his counterpart in Egypt, in Sharm el-Sheikh. The foreign ministers of the two countries met more recently after the foreign secretaries had been -- had met. And I think the dialogue is on. I think the Pakistani suggestion that we resume the comprehensive dialogue, composite dialogue has been noted.

What we would like to see is some movement, as has been said, against the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack and then, sequentially, steps could follow.

AMANPOUR: So movement against the perpetrators?

HAROON: Well, it is being pursued rigorously. You know the situation in the country as it is today, but, nevertheless, they are pushing ahead. There is a judicial process. There is a question of lawyers asking for time, et cetera. There is an independent judiciary in Pakistan today. They act as they please.

But the government is resolute. It will go forward.

AMANPOUR: And do you think there are more attempts, as President -- former President Musharraf tried his back-channel attempt? Will there be more of those?

HAROON: I think that the back-channel attempts were on. They have kept on and off the way they're going. There are many talks about what could have occurred, and some of it is very good, but it was never formatted, so we're not sure at the moment where it'll end up.

But, Christiane, I think that all ambassadors sitting around this table -- if you can speak for them -- we all have a belief that this region is to become a major region in the world tomorrow. Already, India has raised the ante, and they're very far ahead, but the other states intend to follow, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

AMANPOUR: Well -- well -- well, let me ask you: How can it? Because the potential is there, obviously. You have the human potential, the development potential, the land, the resources, but you also have this terrible war, this terrible terrorism, the insurgents, both in Pakistan and Afghanistan. As bad as it is today, do you believe that it's slightly better than it was two years ago, that at least Af-Pak is slightly better in terms of communicating and working together?

TANIN: I think there is a forward momentum.

AMANPOUR: A forward momentum?

TANIN: Yes. I think the Af-Pak, as you call it, or the relations between...

AMANPOUR: I don't call it...

TANIN: ... Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the United States in the form of trilateral and other forms is -- is proved to work. And we have three main allies in this struggle, in this work, the government of Afghanistan, the government of President Zardari in Pakistan, and the United States. So I don't think there is a difference between these three governments about how to take more steps.

We hope, also, that all other people and institutions would help that process and -- and there is a wide belief that in -- in the near future, the prospect for promising development is -- is -- is there and we have to look into that very, very positively and constructively.


TANIN: As far as Afghanistan is concerned, we made it very clear that we need each other, we have to work each other, and in a bigger concept, I think the countries in the region, including India and others, should work together, and -- and -- and that -- relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan and improvement of relations and trust would help to have such a forum.

AMANPOUR: Well, let -- let me ask you, Ambassador, I mean, really, as I said, one of the reasons why so many people are so focused on your whole region is because of the nuclear weapons, is because it scares the living daylights out of the rest of the world, what could happen in your area.

Right now, today, you've had yet another terrorist attack. One of your senior military commanders was killed. The leader of one of the insurgent groups has said all of Pakistan is in a state of war. Are you capable of winning this war in Pakistan, in Pakistan?

HAROON: You know, Christiane, I've heard you and television speak about the problem which took place with the Hezbollah as Israel entered Lebanon. Now, people with small hit-and-run tactics can succeed against establishments, so as to speak, but to say all of Pakistan is at war is not...

AMANPOUR: No, the insurgents said that. I'm asking you whether you can win it.

HAROON: I'm talking about insurgents. I think that is something that cannot be claimed because there are strikes, there are strikes everywhere, but individual strikes anywhere today in the world, if people can access the World Trade towers from across the waters, then any place is fair game, isn't it?

The question is -- Pakistan is more vulnerable than many others. Can we win it? I think it will depend upon very strong military action, which is taking place, and subsequent good government.

Now, that subsequent part, with the right funding -- which hasn't come in yet -- a lot of words, a lot of promises, a lot of things get said which don't get cemented or don't produce themselves. Well, what Pakistan needs is help, not because we are perennially people who need help, but we've fought a war on the front line for 30 years. And in those 30 years, the country has been pillaged. It has been totally bereft of financial aid.

It's surprising that when you count that, you know, in a five-year war, it's $2 trillion in Iraq, $25 billion a year in Afghanistan, the military claims, well, then Pakistan's costs should be somewhere close to that, as well. And to be offered $1 billion or $1.5 billion a year...

AMANPOUR: From the U.S. you're talking about?

HAROON: ... with conditionalities...

AMANPOUR: You're cross about that?

HAROON: I'm not cross about that.

AMANPOUR: But the Pakistanis have been quite cross...

HAROON: Any help is a welcome thing.

AMANPOUR: ... about the -- the conditions.

HAROON: But I think that the Pakistanis feel there are too many caveats, too many conditionalities, and it does make it sound rather strange that aid is nowhere near the sort of $5 billion to $10 billion we need a year to be able to come back on our own. This is merely adding a crutch. Is that what we need at this time, a crutch? Or do we need something more promising?

AMANPOUR: We're going to continue this right after a break. Stay with us. We'll be back with some final thoughts in a moment.



ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We turned our backs on Afghanistan. We turned our backs on Pakistan. They were left to deal with the situation in Afghanistan on their own. Their worry is what happens in the future. Will we be there? Will we be a constant presence? Will we be supportive of them over the long term?


AMANPOUR: That's what U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told me earlier this month, promising to stay the course. So my final question to our three ambassadors is, do your countries want the United States to stay? We have this strategic review going on. Do you want them to ramp up and stay, Ambassador?

TANIN: Our view is very, very clear about that. We supported General McChrystal's suggestions and strategy, including increase of forces. We know that there is a threat. This threat is not only for Afghanistan. This threat is not only limited to Afghanistan and Pakistan. And this threat is not only regional, as we know everywhere.

So without stabilizing Afghanistan, any talks about withdrawal or exit from the military activities and -- and -- and dealing with the current challenges is just against the interest of the United States and the -- and the global world.

AMANPOUR: Thank you.

Ambassador Haroon?

HAROON: From Charlie Wilson until now, it's been your game and your terrain. If you pull yourself out of it, it's going to create serious problems, naturally. I think that this is not the way to handle it.

It has to be handled by putting together or cobbling together a peace that can work with everyone involved, all the neighbors, China, Russia, India, Iran, the works. And then I think we've got it going on a better scale, because just to pull out like that, like you did last time, will have devastating consequences.

AMANPOUR: Ambassador?

PURI: You cannot have a fight against international terrorism which is compartmentalized. The snakes that bite us wherever come from the same pit. You cannot do Faustian deals with terrorist groups, so I think you need a comprehensive international movement against the terrorists, and I hope that all of us who are involved in this will carry this fight through until the end so that all of us are victors in this.

AMANPOUR: Thank you all so very much for being with us. Thank you very much for joining us.

And thank you to all of you. And if you want to join this policy debate, send us your messages at And that is it for now. We'll be back tomorrow with a disturbing look at modern slavery, wives being bought and sold like cattle. For all of us here right now, goodbye from New York.