US allays India’s Afghan fears, admits ISI-Taliban links (Second Lead)

July 22nd, 2010 - 9:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban New Delhi, July 22 (IANS) In a delicate balancing act, the US Thursday assured India that Washington’s ties with Pakistan were not to derail New Delhi’s “laudable” role in Afghanistan’s reconstruction and admitted that ISI-Taliban links posed a problem.

Days after talks between India and Pakistan broke down, US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke pitched for better relations between New Delhi and Islamabad.

He underlined that better relations between Washington and Islamabad were in New Delhi’s interests.

Although Holbrooke did not spell out what gave Pakistan a leverage over the evolving power equations in Afghanistan, he spoke about the links between Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Taliban, a nexus highlighted by New Delhi many a time.

“The links between the ISI and the Taliban are a problem. The US has spoken to the Pakistan government and the military on ISI’s links with the Taliban,” he told reporters here.

Holbrooke met Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and assuaged India’s concerns about the Western-backed plan to integrate the Taliban in Kabul’s power structure.

He briefed Rao on the Obama administration’ strategy for stabilizing Afghanistan before July 2011 when the US troops hope to begin pulling out from that country.

Holbrooke flew in here Wednesday after attending a global conference in Kabul at which diplomats from over 60 countries and international organizations cleared a plan to hand over the security of Afghanistan to Afghan security forces by 2014.

Holbrooke spoke about growing coordination among terror groups in the region, a point also made by National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon at a seminar on terrorism in South Asia.

“Their long-term objective is to destroy Western civilization and to create crisis between New Delhi and Islamabad,” Holbrooke said.

He was asked about the Pakistan-backed Haqqani terror network and the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistan-based militant group accused of executing the 2008 Mumbai carnage.

“LeT is a co-equal threat along with Al Qaeda. The LeT, Al Qaeda and Taliban are all working closer together than ever before,” he said, ruling out any reconciliation with the terrorist groups in Afghanistan.

Referring to the meeting between US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna in Kabul two days ago, Holbrooke said it was “the most important meeting” Clinton had there.

He said she conveyed the need for India to improve relations with Pakistan.

While acknowledging Pakistan’s crucial role in the war against terror in Afghanistan, Holbrooke stressed that this did not mean overlooking India’s contribution to rebuild that country.

“India’s role in Afghanistan is not being diminished. It’s not a zero sum game. Improved US relations with Pakistan are not bad for India,” he said.

“India has legitimate interests in what happens in the neighbourhood. Our goal is to have full transparency with India with what’s going on in Afghanistan.”

Holbrooke sought to assure that neither Pakistan nor the Taliban were going to take over Afghanistan.

“You can’t stabilise Afghanistan without Pakistan’s support as a concerned, legitimate partner,” he said. “(But) India has a major role to play in the stability of the region and in search for solutions in Afghanistan.”

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