Mark Grossman says no one talked about sending Indian forces to Afghanistan

Days after India inked a strategic agreement with Afghanistan, U.S. Special Representative on Af-Pak Marc Grossman on Wednesday met Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai, Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar and Special Envoy on Afghanistan S.K. Lamba.

“I reported to all the three in my meetings that I have been on this long journey which has brought me to New Delhi for one purpose, that is to support the diplomacy that is going on to try to create successful conferences about Afghanistan. First in Istanbul on November 2nd of this year and secondly in Bonn on December 5th,” Mr. Grossman told newspersons.

Once tipped to be the U.S. Ambassador to India, Mr. Grossman termed the India-Afghanistan strategic pact a “positive development” and suggested that two sovereign states had the right to fashion an agreement as they think best. “People have the opportunity to sign documents with whom they want and we will go from here…. so, the more of these relationships that Afghans have, [it] seems to me the better,” he observed in this respect.

As a top U.S. Administration official, Mr. Grossman was involved in the Indo-US Next Steps in Strategic Partnership (NSSP) which led to the civil nuclear agreement between the two countries.

Approves clause

Mr. Grossman seemed to approve of one of the clauses in the strategic agreement that enhances India's role in Afghan security by terming it a “good development” and said he came away with the impression that “no one I spoke to today talked about sending Indian military forces into Afghanistan and so I think the reaction of Indians, Afghans and I would say Pakistanis has been quite calm about this.”

Before leaving for the multi-nation tour, Mr. Grossman in an interview to the Voice of America had given an inkling about the U.S. administration's mid-term goals — “My analysis is that the killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad gives us the opportunity to now finish the Al-Qaeda. What's that going to take? It's going to take a huge amount of cooperation from Pakistan, from Afghanistan, from countries all around the world. This is really our opportunity now to defeat this organisation.”

Speaking to newspersons here, he basically reiterated this theme. “The idea is to see if the international community can find a way to support and secure a stable and prosperous Afghanistan inside of a secure stable and prosperous region,” he said.

The U.S. envoy said in all his meeting with Indian interlocutors, a recurring theme was stepping up Indian private sector investment in Afghanistan. India is in the race for Hajigak iron ore project, said to be the region's largest untapped deposits of iron ore. India has also signed a trilateral MoU with Iran and Afghanistan in utilising a route to reach Pashtun-dominated areas in addition to the existing networks through Pakistan.

Reviving Silk Road

Mr. Grossman also dwelt on the recent U.S. enthusiasm for reviving the Silk Road, parts of which are converging in Uzbekistan and are currently ensuring the transfer of western supplies into Afghanistan. Mr. Grossman has made visits to Central Asian countries (except Turkmenistan) an essential part of his travels to the region.

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