India suggests integrated approach for peace in Afghanistan

March 12th, 2009 - 12:30 pm ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, March 12 (IANS) India has suggested an integrated approach involving simultaneous action on three fronts - development, security and governance - to bring peace and stability to war torn Afghanistan.

“If they do it together, they can create space for Afghans to make a choice to lead a normal life,” Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said at a press conference here Wednesday after the first high-level dialogue with the new Obama administration.

The Indian official said he had spent “considerable time” discussing the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan with US officials including special representative for the two nations Richard Holbrooke.

He also met acting principal undersecretary of defence for policy Peter Verga, Admiral Timothy Keating, commander of the US Pacific command, and Gen David Petraeus, commander of the US Central command.

Menon said he had shared India’s perception and its experience in reconstruction in Afghanistan, where it had spent over $1.5 billion on community projects and big schemes like roads and power projects.

“We spoke of successful bits that we have done and shared our ideas on how to move forward to bring some level of peace and prosperity to Afghanistan.”

Menon said he found “great degree of convergence on how we look at the situation and what we need to do”.

Asked about Obama administration’s hint of negotiating with the “good” Taliban, Menon said: “There are no good or bad Taliban. They are all Afghan. The question is what they want.”

“It’s not a question of negotiating with Taliban, who have no inclination. But for individual Afghans who wish to there is space,” Menon said suggesting an integrated approach encompassing development, security and governance.

He suggested a similar approach for Sri Lanka as well. Besides restoring normal life, rehabilitating and reconstructing economic life, political steps, including devolution, were also needed.

“That’s important. Unless this is done, a sense of alienation would prevail,” he said, adding that US and India had “very similar approaches” to the situation.

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