India not pushed on ties with Pakistan, consulted on Af-Pak: Holbrooke (Roundup)

April 8th, 2009 - 9:18 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, April 8 (IANS) With India a “vital leader” in the region, the US Wednesday maintained it was not pressuring New Delhi on its ties with Islamabad and would like to see a greater role for this country in Afghanistan, even as it said India had been consulted on President Barrack Obama’s new Af-Pak strategy.
“The subject (India-Pakistan ties) did not come up,” Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan said at a joint press conference here with Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, after talks with Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon.

Holbrooke and Mullen were here on the concluding leg of a five-day “whirlwind” swing through the region that has already taken them to Afghanistan and Pakistan as they seek to take forward Obama’s Af-Pak policy on the war against terror.

“We didn’t come here to get the Indian government to do something. We came to inform and consult the Indian government (about the Af-Pak strategy),” Holbrooke said.

In this context, he noted that India had been kept in the loop while the Af-Pak strategy was being formulated and would continue to be consulted in future.

“We consulted the Indian government very closely,” Holbrooke said.

“India plays a critical role in the region. We have the same priorities but no coordination. So we need to move forward on that,” he explained.

Added Mullen: “India is a vital leader in the region. Its role is critical in so many constructive and positive ways.”

Apart from Menon, Holbrooke and Mullen also met National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan and the prime minister’s special envoy S.K. Lambah for “terrific talks”, as the envoy put it, on regional and security issues.

Holbrooke also noted that Menon had spoken on the telephone with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US National Security Advisor James L. Jones while the Af-Pak policy was being strategised.

“India’s views will be welcomed in Washington at any and every level,” the envoy maintained.

Mullen separately met Indian Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta — who is also chairman of the Indian chiefs of staff committee — to discuss issues relating to maritime security.

According to Holbrooke: “What happens in Afghanistan depends on what happens in Pakistan. They are deeply inter-related. For the first time since partition, India, Pakistan and the US face a common threat, a common challenge and have a common task.

“It’s in the national security interest of all three to work together and Pakistan is central to that. It’s going to be difficult but we’ll get there,” the envoy maintained.

Holbrooke also lauded India’s role in Afghanistan’s reconstruction, particularly its initiatives in the agricultural sector.

“(Indian) Ambassador (Jayant) Prasad outlined for us what is being done. It’s an impressive and very, very comprehensive agricultural programme,” he said.

He also pointed out that the US effort in Afghanistan was focused “not just on the military side but in engaging civil society too. We have to see how to work together better”.

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