India kept out of Afghan meet despite Pakistan accepting ‘mistake’

Monday, November 29, 2010

LONDON - India was kept out of a meeting in Turkey on Afghanistan to appease Pakistan, though Islamabad opined that excluding India from such regional structures would be a “mistake”, revealed a WikiLeaks expose of a secret cable from the US embassy in Ankara.

At a meeting with US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns, then Turkey’s deputy under secretary for bilateral political affairs responsible for the Middle East, South Asia and Africa, Rauf Engin Soysal, said Turkey had not invited India to the Afghanistan Neighbours Summit “in deference to Pakistani sensitivities”.

“He (Soysal) said Turkey had not invited India to the neighbours’ summit in deference to Pakistani sensitivities; however, he claimed, Pakistan understands attempting to exclude India from the nascent South Asian regional structures would be a mistake,” said the cable dated Feb 25, 2010.

The secret US embassy cables were released Sunday in The Guardian.

Zardari met Turkish President Abdullah Gul and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai at an international conference in Istanbul that kicked off Jan 25 this year. The conference on Afghanistan was regarding talks with Taliban to establish peace in the region.

Soysal, a former Turkish ambassador to Pakistan from January 2007 to July 2009, and his country’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, was appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in September as the Special Envoy for Assistance to Pakistan.

“He reported Indian Prime Minister (Manmohan) Singh had requested (Turkish) President (Abdullah) Gul’s assistance with Pakistan during the latter’s visit to New Delhi the previous week. Acting on that request, Gul had phoned Pakistani President Zardari, who was sceptical of Indian intentions. Gul is planning to visit Pakistan later this year.”

“Soysal said Iran is proposing a quadrilateral summit, which would include Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan, but that proposal had yet to generate enthusiasm,” it said.

Soysal said the Pakistani military was displeased with Zardari, but was unwilling to intervene.

“Nevertheless, senior officers’ patience may not be infinite. Zardari needs to increase the democratic legitimacy of parliament. Soysal offered. Nawaz Sharif has become a much more constructive player,” the secret cable said.

WikiLeaks, which claims to provide “an innovative, secure and anonymous way for sources to leak information to our journalists” through its electronic drop box, has won a number of awards, including the 2008 Economist magazine’s New Media Award.

Founded by Julian Assange with the slogan “We open governments”, WikiLeaks released in July the Afghan War Diary, a compilation of more than 76,900 documents about the war in Afghanistan not previously available for public review.

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