Taliban a common threat to India, US and Pakistan: Holbrooke (Lead)

February 16th, 2009 - 9:55 pm ICT by IANS  

TalibanNew Delhi, Feb 16 (IANS) With the Pakistan government striking a deal with the Taliban in Swat valley and neighbouring areas, India and the US Monday discussed the danger posed by the militia and agreed to intensify efforts to combat the “common” regional threat of terrorism.

US special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke held talks with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and underlined that that Taliban operating out of Swat region posed a “direct threat” to India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Although New Delhi did not publicly comment on “internal developments” in Pakistan, officials who did not wish to be named said India agreed with the US perception that such developments have the potential to impact the security of neighbouring countries as well.

Holbrooke, a former US envoy to the UN, wrapped up his three-nation tour to South Asia aimed at evolving a strategy to deal with terrorism in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region, described by the Obama administration as the “central front” in the battle against terror.

Holbrooke also met National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan and Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and discussed an array of issues including the Mumbai terror attacks, Pakistan’s response and increasing volatility in Afghanistan.

Indian officials shared their assessment of the situation in the region and pressed the US to continue to sustain pressure on Islamabad to make it prosecute the terrorists who attacked Mumbai.

“For the first time in 60 years, your country, Pakistan and the US all face an enemy that poses direct threats to our leaderships, our capitals and our people,” Holbrooke told reporters after his meetings.

He underlined that this common threat comes from developments in Swat, located just 160 km from Islamabad, where Taliban virtually runs the show.

“I do want to underscore the fact that what happened in Swat demonstrates a key point and that is that India, the US and Pakistan all have a common threat now,” he said.

Holbrooke, however, chose not to react to the peace deal signed by the Pakistan government and Islamic hardliners that allow for the imposition of Shariat law in the Swat Valley, provincial Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain told reporters in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

“All laws against Shariat will be abolished and Shariat will be enforced under this justice system,” he said.

Holbrooke said: “When I was in the tribal areas and, I did not go to Swat but I was in Peshawar. I talked to people from Swat… They were frankly quite terrified.”

He said Swat has “really, deeply affected the people of Pakistan not just in Peshawar, but in Lahore and in Islamabad”. The envoy underlined that he will be talking to the US ambassador in Islamabad about new developments in Swat valley, a scenic place that is called the Switzerland of Pakistan.

The NWFP government and the local Taliban signed a peace deal first in May but it collapsed within months.

In his meetings in New Delhi, the Mumbai attacks figured prominently in the discussions, official sources said.

“I carried no messages or guidance. I just wanted to hear the views of India to a wide range of issues,” said Holbrooke, voicing happiness he was back in India, a country he said he loved since his childhood.

Holbrooke’s visit marks the first high-level contact between India and the US after Barack Obama became president over three weeks ago.

Lauding US ambassador David Mulford for his role in transforming the India-US ties, Holbrooke said he had always been fascinated by India since he was young American growing up in New York.

Holbrooke’s trip to India coincided with the disclosure in an American daily that the CIA played a key role in Pakistan’s admission that its citizens were involved in the Mumbai attacks.

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