India's concern over Pakistan's increasing role in Afghanistan's transition process addressed
With India raising concern over Pakistan's increasing involvement in Afghanistan's transition process, President Hamid Karzai on Sunday assured the visiting External Affairs Minister, S.M. Krishna, that his government would not make any move that was detrimental to New Delhi's interest.
Mr. Karzai sought to allay India's concerns during his meeting with Mr. Krishna.
Pat for India
The Afghan President assured Mr. Krishna that India was “uppermost” on his government's priorities and appreciated New Delhi's contribution to the post-war reconstruction and rebuilding efforts in his country.
He said the Afghan government would not act in any way that was detrimental to India's interests, official sources said.
India, which has pledged $1.3 billion to the reconstruction projects in Afghanistan, repeatedly expressed apprehensions over Pakistan's involvement in the transition process and over giving the Taliban representation in the government.
Apart from staff in missions, some 4,000 Indians are building roads, sanitation projects and power lines in this country. India is also building the new Afghan Parliament.
Besides its Embassy in Kabul, India has Consulates in Jalalabad, Kandahar, Mazar-e-Sharif and Herat.
Besides Mr. Karzai, Mr. Krishna met his Afghan counterpart, Zalmay Rasool, National Security Adviser Rangin Dadfar Spanta and the former President, Burhanuddin Rabbani, who recently led an Afghan delegation to Pakistan to hold discussions over the peace process.
During the Afghan delegation's meetings with the top Pakistani leadership, the two countries decided to set up a high-power joint consultative commission to take forward the peace process in Afghanistan.
Mr. Rabbani briefed Mr. Krishna on the outcome of his visit to Islamabad, the sources said.
Earlier, addressing a joint press conference with Mr. Rasool, Mr. Krishna said any “external” interference in the transition process of Afghanistan would be detrimental to both its success and the future of the people of Afghanistan, though he did not directly name Pakistan.
Mr. Rasool, on his part, said the peace process could not succeed without being led by the Afghan people and noted that the process was fully controlled by it.
The two leaders held extensive talks on issues such as terrorism in the region, security of Indians and various economic projects.
Mr. Krishna asserted that despite security concerns, India would continue to provide developmental assistance as long as the Afghan government wanted. He also noted that the Afghanistan government had assured India full security.
“India is not going to be cowed down by such threats. We will continue to remain in Afghanistan as long as the legitimately elected government of Afghanistan wants us...,” Mr. Krishna said.
In February last year, seven Indians were killed in a Taliban suicide attack on foreigners in Kabul. It claimed 16 lives and left 20 people critically injured.
Mr. Krishna also reiterated India's position that reintegration could only happen of those who abjured violence, snapped their links with terror outfits and abided by the constitution of Afghanistan.
The two sides also discussed the existence of militants' safe havens across the border.
Apart from discussing long-term projects, India announced the establishment of a course in Pashtun and Deri languages in the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi and the export of 1,00,000 tonnes of wheat to Afghanistan.
Mr. Rasool said the two sides also discussed mining projects, keeping Indian companies' interest in mind, along with various Indian developmental projects such as the Salma dam, capacity-building in civilian areas and trade and economic cooperation.
The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, the transition of the country's security apparatus to Afghan forces, and the reintegration and reconciliation process also came up for discussion.
India reiterated its commitment to partner the Afghan government to achieve a stable and prosperous country.
This is the first high-level meeting between New Delhi and Kabul after the last month's U.S. review of the situation in Afghanistan.
According to the U.S. assessment report, “Overview of the Afghanistan and Pakistan Annual Review,” America was still on course to begin troop withdrawal from Afghanistan as soon as July 2011 and continued to move towards the goal of having Afghans take the lead in security in the country in 2014. — PTI