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Updated: February 5, 2010 09:55 IST

US welcomes Indian offer of talks with Pakistan

PTI
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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari during a meeting in Russia. The U.S. on Friday welcomed the India-Pakistan talks. Photo: AP
AP Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari during a meeting in Russia. The U.S. on Friday welcomed the India-Pakistan talks. Photo: AP

The Obama Administration on Friday welcomed the Indian proposal to hold talks with Pakistan at the level of Foreign Secretary.

"This is a welcome move," the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, P.J. Crowley, told reporters at the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department.

"We are supportive of dialogue among India, Pakistan and Afghanistan as a key component of moving ahead and achieving a stable region," Mr. Crowley said in response to a question.

"We certainly have been encouraging steps that both Pakistan and India could take to address mutual concerns and to take appropriate steps so that tensions can be reduced, cooperation can be increased, and, as a result you have a more stable region that is focused on threats, both interests that they share and threats that they share, Mr. Crowley said.

Pak will accept Indian offer but problem on agenda: Stratfor

Terming it as a breakthrough in Indo-Pak relationship, a US-based strategic think tank has said that New Delhi's offer to have Foreign Secretary-level talks with Islamabad is driven by India's concerns over Taliban appeasement in Afghanistan.

"Though little progress has been made in India's efforts to get Islamabad to crack down on India-focused militants operating on Pakistani soil, India's concerns over Taliban appeasement in Afghanistan are driving New Delhi toward engagement with Islamabad," said Stratfor, which provides strategic intelligence on security and geopolitical affairs.

"India knows the only way it can edge into the Afghanistan dialogue and hope to influence the Taliban negotiations is to first reopen a diplomatic channel with Pakistan," it said in its news analysis on India’s offer of talks with Islamabad.

Mr. Stratfor said India demonstrated its openness to cooperate on the issue when Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said January 30 that India is willing to give negotiations with the Taliban a try.

Mr. Krishna even went so far as to say that India could be "quite satisfied" even if Pakistan took a "few steps" in cooperation with the Mumbai attacks investigation, it said.

"Pakistan will likely accept the Indian offer to talk, but problems will arise when it comes time to set the agenda. India will want to talk about Pakistani-sponsored militancy and Taliban negotiations. Pakistan will want to talk about everything else. It will be up to the United States to attempt to bridge this difficult gap," it said.

Stratfor said United States and Pakistan are showing signs of realigning their views on how to negotiate with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The US needs results in this war on a short timeline, and is finding that it must work with Pakistan if it wants to see progress in negotiations with the Taliban.

As a result, the United States also must face the unpalatable political prospect of opening a dialogue with high-level militant commanders like Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Omar, it noted.

"These developments are causing concern to New Delhi," Stratfor said adding that India remembers well the security problems it faced while the Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1994 to 2001, including a 1999 hijacking of an Indian airliner by Pakistani militants who forced the aircraft to land in Kandahar with the cooperation of the Taliban regime.

"India is fearful of any US-Pakistani designs for Taliban appeasement in Afghanistan that would allow the militant group substantial political space to operate.

For this reason, India also is increasing diplomatic contacts with Iran, which shares New Delhi’s fears of a political comeback for the Taliban in Afghanistan," it said.

Stratfor noted that Pakistan in recent months has voiced increasing concerns over Indian involvement in Afghanistan.

Though India has primarily focused its efforts in Afghanistan on political and economic reconstruction, Islamabad has a deep-seated fear that New Delhi is creating a foothold in Afghanistan to the west to encircle Pakistan.

Fuelling these fears in Islamabad are the United States’ moves to deepen its relationship with India.


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