U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (AfPak) Marc Grossman on Friday briefed top Indian foreign policy officials here on Washington's opening of dialogue with the Taliban and sought greater cooperation from New Delhi in effecting political reconciliation.
The briefing was meant to address complaints from major regional players that they were not being kept in the picture on the latest moves by Washington.
While discussions centered around the political process, the two sides are also believed to have touched generally on regional cooperation in the economic field. The two sides could in future start looking at specific projects. Mr. Grossman also briefed officials about his talks in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Mr. Grossman had chosen to visit India after Pakistan rebuffed his proposal for a visit. Mr. Grossman's next port of call is Kabul, where he will brief Afghan President Hamid Karzai on the discussions he held here and in the four countries. The new AfPak envoy was in Delhi on a day when another of its western allies – France – decided to pull out of training Afghan army personnel after four of its soldiers were shot dead.
“We reviewed the situation and I appreciate his desire to continue the conversation between India and the U.S. on this issue,” he told journalists after meeting Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai.
New Silk Road Initiative
Earlier, the State Department provided an inkling of the area U.S. wished India to focus on. “India is very much a player in the New Silk Road Initiative. These are all part and parcel of the same fight, talk, build strategy,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victorial Nuland had said at a briefing announcing Mr. Grossman's unscheduled visit to New Delhi. India supports police training in Afghanistan and “other things” in Afghanistan “so it's important that we keep those lines of communication open,” she added. However the Silk Road project as such was not discussed on Friday but both sides consider the proposed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) as a major regional project that would benefit Afghanistan. India has emerged as a key country in the economic field in Afghanistan by winning a major contract for iron ore mining and is developing plans for a multi-purpose project.
In a brief interaction with the media, Mr. Grossman indicated the need for Islamabad to make efforts to repair ties which were snapped after western forces on anti-insurgency operations killed over 20 Pakistani army personnel. “Pakistan has asked for some time to reassess and re-evaluate the relationship with the U.S. They have asked for time, to give them space, to have that re-evaluation and I respect that…when Pakistan is ready to reengage in a dialogue with the U.S, we're glad to do so at any time and at any place,'' he observed.
Nevertheless, Mr. Grossman favoured “close conversation with the Pakistanis'' on Afghanistan, wanted to encourage dialogue between Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as a trilateral dialogue mechanism with the US as the third party. “We'd like again to get into the meeting of the Core Group — Afghanistan, Pakistan and the U.S.— because I think a conversation about all these things is really necessary.” She said the envoy was on “organic trip” during which “he's going to go where he thinks he can do some good and where consultations can be helpful.''