India reminds Britain about ISI’s Afghan role, air Taliban concerns (Lead)

July 28th, 2010 - 9:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban New Delhi/Bangalore, July 28 (IANS) India Wednesday conveyed its concerns over Pakistani spy agency ISI’s role in Afghanistan and the proposed reintegration of the Taliban when the foreign ministers of India and Britain met here, a day ahead of the talks between their prime ministers.
External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna met British Foreign Secretary William Hague and discussed a range of bilateral issues, including trade and investment, the new British immigration policy and closer educational and cultural ties.

During the talks, India raised its concerns over the British government’s cap on non-EU immigration of skilled labour and stressed that it could come in the way of ambitions to energise business ties. Hague assured this policy will be fine-tuned after consultations with India, sources said.

Krishna and Hague also shared views on the volatile situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan and its repercussions on regional security.

Krishna spoke about the recent leaks of classified documents by an online whistleblower that documents in detail the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) role in fomenting insurgency and anti-India activities in Afghanistan and aired his concerns about the threat to India’s security interests, sources said.

Britain took note of India’s concerns and agreed to deepen bilateral counter-terror cooperation in the region.

The AfPak issues will figure in discussions between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his British counterpart David Cameron Thursday.

Downplaying divergences with India on Afghanistan, New Delhi described London as “a very valuable interlocutor.”

“India is supportive of the Afghan government’s efforts to integrate those elements who abjure violence and abide by the Afghan constitution and are respectful of the economic and political gains that Afghanistan has made in the past several years,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Vishnu Prakash told reporters here.

“We are also of the view that any such initiative should be Afghan-led and Afghan-driven,” said the spokesperson.

He was responding to a question on whether issues relating to Afghanistan and Pakistan will figure in Thursday’s discussions between Manmohan Singh and Cameron, who is on a two-day visit to India.

Britain has been a strong advocate of the Taliban’s integration into the Afghan mainstream, a proposal that was endorsed at an international conference in London in January and was reinforced at a global conclave in Kabul last week.

Cameron arrived Tuesday night in Bangalore. He will hold delegation-level talks with Manmohan Singh and his senior cabinet ministers in Delhi Thursday on a wide range of issues, including invigorating business, cultural and educational ties between the two countries.

When asked about the recent leaks of classified documents by an online whistleblower on the ISI role in fomenting insurgency and anti-India activities in Afghanistan, Prakash said India has made it clear that Islamabad must stop “sponsorship of terrorism” as an “instrument of policy”.

“We have always believed that a stable, secure and prosperous Pakistan is in our interest. We have no objections to other countries giving aid,” he replied when asked whether New Delhi will sound out Britain on the misuse of aid for alleged anti-India activities.

British High Commissioner Richard Stagg downplayed perceived differences between India and Britain on dealing with the volatile Afghanistan-Pakistan region. “There is no huge disconnect between the UK and India over Afghanistan-Pakistan. We have the same objective - to avoid a return to the pre-2001 situation, with the Taliban harbouring terrorist extremists bent on attacking us.”

“This issue for discussion between the UK and Indian ministers will be how best to achieve an outcome that sees an Afghan-led process that allows the international community to play a smaller role over time in providing security,” Stagg said.

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