India seen as key stakeholder in Obama’s new Afghan strategy

March 28th, 2009 - 12:37 am ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama By Arun Kumar
Washington, March 27 (IANS) Recognising India as a key stakeholder in the war against terrorism, President Barack Obama proposes to include New Delhi as well as Iran in a new contact group on Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“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,” Obama said Friday, announcing a new US strategy for the Afghan war.

He said the group should include “our NATO allies and other partners, but also the Central Asian states, the Gulf nations and Iran; Russia, India and China.”

Obama said he is sending another 4,000 troops to Afghanistan along with hundreds of civilian specialists, but stressed that there needs to be a dramatic increase in America’s civilian efforts,

The troops, which are in addition to the 17,000 the president announced earlier, will be charged with training and building the Afghan army and police force.

He said Afghanistan’s government has been “undermined by corruption and has difficulty delivering basic services to its people”, and its economy is undercut by a booming narcotics trade that “encourages criminality and funds the insurgency”.

“To advance security, opportunity and justice - not just in Kabul, but from the bottom up, in the provinces - we need agricultural specialists and educators; engineers and lawyers.

“That is how we can help the Afghan government serve its people, and develop an economy that isn’t dominated by illicit drugs,” he said underling an approach broached by India, which has been involved in development efforts in Afghanistan.

Obama said the United States will set clear benchmarks for international assistance and won’t ignore attention to corruption.

The United States is seeking to work with the United Nations to develop “greater progress for its mandate to coordinate international action and assistance, and to strengthen Afghan institutions.”

Obama said the additional forces “will take the fight to the Taliban in the south and east” and will work with Afghan troops to fight insurgents along the border. He said such an effort will bolster “security in advance of the important presidential election in August”.

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