Islamabad, Feb.7 (ANI): Describing Afghanistan as a sovereign country that has a right to have bilateral relations with any nation that it chooses, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmoud Quraishi has said Islamabad cannot hold a grudge against Kabul for having ties with New Delhi, but added that a qualitative distinction needs to be made on contributions provided by both countries to that war-ravaged nation.
"India has contributed in financial terms to the advancement of Afghanistan's reconstruction and I cannot stop that. But we have to draw a qualitative distinction between Pakistan's role and India's role in Afghanistan. Their role cannot be the same as Pakistan. As Pakistan, we feel that we have contributed to Afghanistan brothers much more than India," Quraishi told the Gulf News.
"We hosted Afghans during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (1979-1989), we hosted the Mujahideen, we opened our doors to Afghanistan. And, we protected millions of refugees, and even today there are more than three million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan. We are contributing to Afghanistan's reconstruction both in financial and human terms and we share a long border, common religion, common tribes and culture - but India does not," he added.
He further said: "Pakistan has paid a huge price for Afghanistan in human and economic terms and Pakistan is their best bet for a solution. If things improve in Afghanistan, Pakistan will benefit from it but if things deteriorate in Afghanistan, Pakistan suffers while India is far away. We are facing suicide bombings and killings due to the Afghan war."
Asked whether he desired a bigger role for Pakistan in Afghanistan, and Quraishi said: "We are not asking for any role. We did not play any role in the presidential and parliamentary elections. We are playing a role in facilitation and not telling them what to do."
He also held out hope that the current political set-up in Afghanistan will be able to improve the situation in the country, once the US-led NATO forces start withdrawing from the region from July 2011.
"Yes, our view is that there is no military solution. It requires a political situation and we need political reconciliation in Afghanistan, and that is why Pakistan is supportive of an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process of reconciliation," he said. (ANI)