India a key element in Obama’s new ‘Af-Pak’ strategy

March 27th, 2009 - 11:19 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama By Arun Kumar
Washington, March 27 (IANS) A key element of US President Barack Obama’s new “Af-Pak” strategy is to lessen India-Pakistan tensions and recast the Afghanistan war as a regional issue that also involves India, Russia, China and Iran among others.

“To lessen tensions between two nuclear-armed nations that too often teeter on the edge of escalation and confrontation, we must pursue constructive diplomacy with both India and Pakistan,” he said while announcing the new strategy from the White House Friday.

Warning that Al Qaeda was planning attacks on the US “from its safe haven in Pakistan” and that the Afghanistan situation is “increasingly perilous”, Obama said: “It’s an international security challenge of the highest order.”

“The safety of people around the world is at stake,” he added, noting 2008 was the deadliest year of the war for US forces in Afghanistan in the fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

As tribal regions of Pakistan “are vast, they are rugged, and they are often ungoverned”, the US “must focus our military assistance on the tools, training and support that Pakistan needs to root out the terrorists, Obama said. “And after years of mixed results, we will not, and cannot, provide a blank check.”

“Pakistan must demonstrate its commitment to rooting out Al Qaeda and the violent extremists within its borders. And we will insist that action be taken - one way or another - when we have intelligence about high-level terrorist targets,” he said.

In Afghanistan, Obama said his administration is committed to strengthening international organizations and collective action. “As America does more, we will ask others to join us in doing their part.

“From our partners and NATO allies, we will seek not simply troops, but rather clearly defined capabilities: supporting the Afghan elections, training Afghan security forces, a greater civilian commitment to the Afghan people.

“From the United Nations, we seek greater progress for its mandate to coordinate international action and assistance, and to strengthen Afghan institutions.

“And finally, together with the United Nations, we will forge a new Contact Group for Afghanistan and Pakistan that brings together all who should have a stake in the security of the region - our NATO allies and other partners, but also the Central Asian states, the Gulf nations and Iran; Russia, India and China,” Obama said.

“None of these nations benefit from a base for Al Qaeda terrorists, and a region that descends into chaos. All have a stake in the promise of lasting peace and security and development,” he added.

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