Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf today described Afghanistan as a proxy war between India and Pakistan.
He made his comments as part of the rolling panels at the Washington Ideas Forum taking place at the Newseum.
Musharraf added that he is convinced that Osama bin Laden hiding in Abbotabad, Pakistan, was not about Pakistani government complicity, but a “terrible case of negligence” and speculated that the worsening U.S.-Pakistan relationship might be because of the lack of a personal relationship between the leaders of both countries.
The former Pakistani president said the United States needs to understand Pakistan’s “sensitivities” about Afghanistan’s relationship with India.
“In Afghanistan, there is some kind of a proxy conflict going on between Pakistan and India,” he said. “India is trying to create an anti-Pakistan Afghanistan.”
He added that India has a vision of dominating the region and aims to ”create a weak Pakistan.”
He complained that India has been training Afghan diplomats, soldiers and intelligence officers and that the training should stop.
Musharraf said personal relationships with President Bush and Colin Powell helped ease tensions. He recalled that Powell said to him, “Let’s talk general to general,” which resulted “in straight upright talking” that resolved issues.
”I wonder whether that exists now, that understanding, that mutual confidence,” he said. “Maybe it is not there and, therefore, yes, there is a total breakdown of confidence and that is what is harming the relationship.”
Asked why recent polling in Pakistan holds the U.S. in low esteem, Musharraf recalled how the U.S. “abandoned” Pakistan in 1989 after the Soviet Union left Afghanistan and imposed subsequent sanctions against Pakistan. That left Pakistan “all alone fending by itself” for 12 years and created a sense among the Pakistani population that it had been betrayed.
The U.S. returned after 9/11, Musharraf said, and what “the people are asking is: How are you sure that we are not to be betrayed again, [that the] same thing will not happen, that [Pakistan] will be used again and betrayed again?”
Musharraf said that “historical past” has led to mistrust and antipathy against the United States at the people level in light of the U.S. scale down in Afghanistan planned for 2014.
Musharraf said bin Laden’s hiding in plain sight in Abbotabad was “a terrible thing” but it was “not complicity, it was a terrible case of negligence which must be explained by Pakistan.”
If bin Laden was hiding there for five years, he said, it would have included two years during his rule, “so whether anyone in this hall believes it or not, I did not know. So therefore, I am 500 percent sure that I didn’t know so, therefore, there was no complicity.”
He also noted that locals said they did not know bin Laden was hiding out in the Abbotabad compound.