Pakistan’s Afghan games hot up, Krishna heading to KabulBy Manish Chand, IANS
Monday, January 3, 2011
NEW DELHI - With a high-profile Afghan delegation heading to Pakistan in search of a peace deal with the Taliban, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna goes to Kabul later this week to underline India’s resolve to retain its influence in that country.
Krishna is likely to be in Afghanistan Jan 8-9, well-placed sources told IANS.
Krishna will meet the Afghan leaders, including President Hamid Karzai and Foreign Minister Zalmay Rassoul.
In his interactions, Krishna is expected to highlight India’s stakes in peace and stability in Afghanistan for which it has pledged $1.3 billion for a slew of reconstruction activities ranging from building roads and railways to power stations and grassroots projects.
He is also expected to reiterate India’s apprehensions on the proposed reintegration of the Taliban.
In international conferences in London and Kabul last year, Krishna had backed an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace deal, on the condition that the Taliban cuts links with terrorism and accepts the Afghan constitution.
It will be the first overseas visit by Krishna in 2011, a year that is expected to be a turning point in the nine-year-old US war in Afghanistan.
President Barack Obama has indicated that he will stick to plans to begin a phased withdrawal of around 100,000 troops from Afghanistan in July.
Krishna’s visit will signal India’s resolve to continue its multifarious reconstruction activities in Afghanistan in the face of pressure tactics by Pakistan aimed at forcing out nearly 4,000 Indians working on various infrastructure projects.
The trip takes place amid a renewed offensive by Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) to broker a deal between Kabul and the Taliban.
The Afghan delegation, headed by former president Burhanuddin Rabbani, will be heading to Islamabad Wednesday in a bid to enlist Islamabad’s help to broker peace with the Taliban.
Supported by President Karzai, the delegation from the Afghan High Council for Peace has been mandated to open a dialogue with insurgents who have been trying to undermine the Karzai regime since the US-led forces ousted the Taliban regime in late 2001.
Rabbani is expected to hold intensive talks with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to explore ways to find a negotiated end to the conflict.
Last year, Gilani had stressed that Pakistan had an essential role to play in the Afghan reconciliation process if there was to be any prospect of peace.
“Nothing will happen without us, because we are a part of the solution, we are not a part of the problem,” he stated.
(Manish Chand can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)