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Updated: May 5, 2011 05:51 IST

Get out of Iraq, and get Afghanistan right, former Indian High Commissioner in Pakistan told U.S. counter-terrorism official

Suresh Nambath
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G. Parthasarathy. Photo: Shanker Chakravarty
SHANKER CHAKRAVARTY G. Parthasarathy. Photo: Shanker Chakravarty

The United States must first “get out of Iraq,” and then “get Afghanistan right,” former Indian High Commissioner in Pakistan G. Parthasarathy told U.S. counter-terrorism official Virginia Palmer in December 2006.

This conversation is reported in a New Delhi Embassy cable (89862: secret), accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks.

“The cost of losing Afghanistan is too great for India,” he told Ms. Palmer during a meeting, noting that India has a $650 million aid programme in the country. “Opining that either a real or perceived failure in Afghanistan would be disastrous for the U.S, Parthasarathy said that India would be in ‘deep trouble' if the U.S. walked away from the conflict. Palmer emphatically reassured him of the U.S. government's commitment to stay the course in Afghanistan.”

A “prosperous, friendly” Afghanistan would assert its independence through foreign policy and, therefore, become a threat to neighbouring Pakistan. Ethnic Pashtuns, he said, had “shifting loyalties” and though Osama bin Laden was well-protected, every Pashtun “has his price.” The Pashtun region, the cable reported Mr. Parthasarathy as saying, needs more integration and development. Tajiks and Pashtuns should not be thrown together in the same battalions in the Afghan National Army because they lack ethnic linkages to each other. “If you are fighting, you must have a cause to fight,” he remarked, adding that Tajiks feel abandoned and would benefit from having an all-Tajik battalion, as would the Uzbeks. .

A grassroots campaign, increasing the quality of life for people working in the fields of Afghanistan, and giving ownership to local governance would bring about local social commitment, Mr. Parthasarathy remarked, adding that establishing a Pashtun identity which was not Taliban or religion-oriented would be beneficial.


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