India to skip trilateral meet on Afghanistan

February 21st, 2009 - 9:42 pm ICT by IANS  

TalibanNew Delhi, Feb 21 (IANS) India has decided against sending a representative to a US-led trilateral conference to review its policy on the Afghanistan-Pakistan region that is expected to take place in Washington next week.
The foreign ministers of Pakistan and Afghanistan will lead their delegations at the conference with US special envoy Richard Holbrooke.

The idea of the trilateral conference emerged from Holbrooke’s recent visit to the region that was aimed at getting views of top leaders in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India in the run-up to a comprehensive review of the US strategic policy towards the region.

The US had invited India to be part of the conference, but New Delhi felt it would wait and watch before overtly involving itself in domestic politics of Afghanistan, reliable sources said Saturday.

The conference will focus on ways and means to restore stability in violence-torn Afghanistan and its restive border areas with Pakistan. The review may also explore the possibility of involving a section of the Taliban in a future power-sharing arrangement in that country.

India is not in favour of such an arrangement as it regards the Taliban as a terrorist organisation and a threat to humanity that poses a serious threat to its national security and to its interests in Afghanistan.

Moreover, Indian officials feel that granting any concession to the Taliban would mean giving the Pakistani Army more leverage in manipulating the affairs of Afghanistan.

The situation in Afghanistan and the resurgence of the Taliban figured prominently in discussions between Holbrooke, US speical representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee here early this week.

Although India will not participate in the trilateral conference, the US has agreed to keep it informed of the discussions as it sees New Delhi as critical to its larger strategic objective of stabilising Afghanistan.

Both India and the US have slammed the “peace deal” between the Pakistan government and the Taliban in the Swat Valley which they fear will provide militants space to regroup and renew their attacks in the region.

India has pledged $1.2 billion for various reconstruction activities in Afghanistan.

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