Janan Mosazai, Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan, is tasked with managing a complex relationship with a country that many Afghans blame for their troubles. The young diplomat sees a cooperative relationship with Pakistan as a prerequisite for shared prosperity, and the only antidote to the insecurity and terrorism now plaguing the two neighboring countries.
RFE/RL: How does the new Afghan government under President Ashraf Ghani view relations with Pakistan?
The new Afghan government has a clear vision for comprehensive bilateral relations with Pakistan. We are aiming to do our best to establish a special relationship with Pakistan. Today, in this region and our two countries, we face similar threats and dangers. At the same time, we have tremendous economic opportunities before us which can help us to take giant steps towards development for our people. But we will need to focus on practical cooperation to achieve that.
RFE/RL: Do you have a roadmap for the cooperation you are seeking with Pakistan?
The previous Afghan government, under the leadership of former President Hamid Karzai, had done a lot of work in this regard. They were able to achieve numerous agreements on security and antiterrorism cooperation and backing for the Afghan peace process. We now hope that these agreements are implemented and we can also agree on a clearly defined agenda for future cooperation. This will help us in taking practical step towards establishing an atmosphere of trust between the two nations.
This will eventually lead to establishing a special relationship between Kabul and Islamabad.
RFE/RL: In recent years relations between the two countries have been strained by Kabul's allegations that Islamabad is helping and sheltering the Taliban and other Afghan insurgent factions on its soil. Do you see any progress on this vital issue?
We are grateful for Pakistan's declared support for the Afghan peace process. But we hope to see practical steps being taken in this regard. We have no doubt that terrorism is a common enemy of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The two countries should work out a joint program to combat this enemy. This will not only help in protecting our people from this violent phenomenon, but will pave the way towards close future cooperation between the two countries.
RFE/RL: But Islamabad also claims that some militant groups fighting Pakistani security forces, such as the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan, find shelter inside Afghanistan. How would you respond to such allegations?
We are sincerely trying to end this cycle of blaming each other. We hope that through building trust and cooperation we can resolve such problems. But it is important to note that Afghanistan is one of the worst victims of terrorism in the world. Our children, men, women, elderly, and soldiers are killed by the terrorists daily. So it is unthinkable that the worst victim of terrorism will shelter terrorists on its soil. We have repeatedly conveyed this message to Pakistan and have emphasized that our soil will not be used for fomenting insecurity and instability in Pakistan. Now we expect the same from our neighbors.
RFE/RL: How does your country assess the ongoing Pakistani military offensive in the North Waziristan tribal region along Afghanistan's border?
Afghanistan welcomes every real step against terrorism. The Pakistani military operation in North Waziristan has affected Afghanistan. Some of the militants, including international terrorists who were hiding in that region, have fled into Afghanistan and are attacking the Afghan people and security forces.
The recent increase in terrorist attacks in the [southern province of] Helmand and the [eastern province of] Nangarhar is the result of this phenomenon. For a comprehensive fight against terrorism, the two countries and their security and intelligence organizations need close cooperation.
RFE/RL: During the past decade, Pakistan and Afghanistan have signed various agreements to enhance economic cooperation, and yet benefits are not seen on ground. Why?
It is true that as neighbors sharing deep cultural, religious, and historic similarities our cooperation should have been exemplary. Our economic cooperation has definitely grown over the past 12 years. Our bilateral trade has grown from a mere 100 million dollars in 2001 to more than 2.5 billion dollars today. This is a major improvement.
Similarly, we have taken some major steps in improving regional cooperation. Recently, Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed on the transit rates for the CASA 1000 (eds: Central Asia South Asia Electricity Transmission and Trade Project). This project will carry 1000 megawatts of electricity from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to Pakistan through Afghanistan. This is a very important economic initiative and will help in promoting peace and stability in the four nations involved.
RFE/RL: How do you assess China's role in improving relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan, given that it has indicated strong interest in doing so because of the security threats emanating from the border between the two countries?
As I said, extremism and terrorism are a common challenge for the whole region. During the last few years there is a very strong regional consensus against such threats. We welcome that China is cooperating with Pakistan and Afghanistan to fight such threats. This benefits the whole region.
China is a major regional and global economic and military power. The strategy that China has for the Central Asian states and Pakistan and Afghanistan will stimulate a great economic change. It will definitely benefit our people and will have a positive impact on the global economy.
RFE/RL: The Pakistani media generally paints a gloomy picture of Afghanistan. What are you doing to change that?
Today's Afghanistan is radically different from that of ten or 15 years ago. We are trying our best to tell Pakistani officials and the public about it. We want to increase the people-to-people contact between the two nations. Such efforts include reaching out to the media, the legislators, and various civil society organizations. These are a prerequisite for improving the overall relations between the two countries.