Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Afghan Peace Mission : S M Krishna does plain speaking

The war in Afghanistan has put both the US and its most trust worthy
partner United Kingdom in a quandary. The U.S-led troops parked in that country was aimed at making the native Afghan residents feel safer and Taliban militants more fearful.
But with this not happening; the respective ruling regimes in world’s
most influential ‘global players’ find them on the spot in more ways than
one.
There is sustained pressure on both the ruling dispensations the Obama
administration in Washington DC and the new UK government has only mounted.
The impression is now clearer. Despite the pro-US tilt Indian
foreign policy makers, led by the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, have not missed that perhaps the President Obama and his British “friend in need” are giving a signal of weakness vis-à-vis the Taliban.
On this score, it must be understood that strategically speaking, the Afghan geo-political position is of more consequent to India’s concerns now than probably ever in the past.
This concern has only gained currency with the exit plans from the western blocks led by the United States and the United Kingdom.
In this context, it is worth taking note of the two-day visit to Afghanistan by the external affairs minister S M Krishna during the weekend. Wrapping up his trip, in quite a significant statement at a joint press conference with his Afghanistan counterpart Zalmai Rasoul, Krishna warned that outside interference could undercut the prospect of a stable Afghanistan.
"India has always supported the efforts of Afghanistan to reintegrate those individuals who are willing to reject violence,” Krishna said adding any external interference in the reintegration process would be detrimental both for its success and for the future of a democratic, stable, pluralistic and prosperous Afghanistan.
The provocation to make the candid remarks is obvious because there were reports in recent past that Afghan President Hamid Karzai is about to initiate moves to reintegrate the Taliban -- over which New Delhi has strong reservation.
Actually it is not for the first time that India has given upon itself the role of impressing upon the Afghan government to be cautious against the Taliban and their sympathizers across the border; that is Pakistan. In fact, it goes without stating that any analysis of Taliban’s rise cannot be complete without understanding properly the central role played by its patron, Pakistan.
It may be mentioned here that the Taliban was born among the Afghan refugee population in Pakistan with the support from Pakistani army, especially Pashtun top brass and the ISI.
There is another apprehension that the turmoil in Afghanistan and the battle against Taliban along with the exit plans of US-led forces could only give way to heightened militant activity in Jammu and Kashmir. Therefore, it was in the right spirit when the Indian foreign minister saw merits in visiting Kabul and telling the government there about “continuing assaults” on Indian targets allegedly by the Taliban and Al-Qaida insurgents.
Therefore, ahead of his visit, the external affairs minister said point blank that the Indian missions in Afghanistan were under constant threat though the Afghan government has "fully assured" New Delhi of their security.
India has a strong presence in that war-ravaged country. Besides the embassy in Kabul, India has consulates in Jalalabad, Kandahar, Mazar-e-Sharif and Herat. Besides the staff in missions, about 4,000 Indians are building roads, sanitation projects and power lines in that country. In adition India is also building the new Afghan Parliament.
New Delhi’s concerns are not without good reason that in February last year, seven Indians were killed in a Taliban suicide attack on foreigners in Kabul, which claimed 16 lives and left 20 people critically injured.
New Delhi is strongly pushing its view that peace and stability in Afghanistan should be 'Afghan-led and Afghan-owned' peace deal.
Based on its own experiences and how Pakistan soil is often used by militants to target India, New Delhi wants Kabul to attain peace and stability for itself by its own strength ---- independent of too much of influence from Pakistan.
In the ultimate, for India, Afghanistan is an exceedingly valuable partner. India wants stability in that country for greater stability and prosperity in the region. And even the external affairs minister during his visit has made it clear that India will continue its role for development and reconstruction of Afghanistan.
Krishna also said that would donate 100,000 tons of wheat to Afghanistan to help it fight the drought even as he pointed out that India has pledged USD 1.3 billion for reconstruction activities.
India seeks cordial, cooperative and friendly ties with all its neighbours and would remain steadfast in this pursuit. Afghanistan does figure much prominently in that list. It is also true in successive public opinion surveys in Afghanistan, for example, India has consistently been rated very highly by the common people of Afghanistan. This is a reflection of how India-assisted projects are changing the lives of ordinary Afghans.

(ends)

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