India to convey concerns about Taliban to Afghanistan

Last Updated: Mon, Aug 23, 2010 13:50 hrs

With Kabul openly accusing Pakistan's military-intelligence establishment of harbouring the Taliban and Al Qaeda, India and Afghanistan will discuss ways to combat the common threat when Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmay Rassoul arrives here Tuesday on a three-day visit.

Rassoul will call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday and brief him on the evolving situation in Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban reintegration plan endorsed by an international conference in Kabul over a month ago.

The two sides will continue talks when External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna meets Rassoul Wednesday for delegation-level talks.

Krishna is likely to convey that any such re-integration process should factor in India's concerns as it continues to get intelligence reports about plans of Pakistan-aided militant outfits like the Haqqani network to target Indian assets in Afghanistan, well-placed sources said.

At the July 20 Kabul conference, Krishna had made it clear that India backs the reintegration plan of the Afghan government, but only on condition the Taliban renounces violence, cuts off links with terrorism and accepts the Afghan constitution.

The two sides will also discuss the security of around 4,000 Indians involved in a slew of professional and reconstruction activities in Afghanistan, said official sources.

This will be the first Afghan ministerial visit to India after WikiLeaks, an online whistle-blower, revealed extensive involvement of Pakistan-backed terror groups in attacks against Indian personnel and interests in the violence-torn country.

Rassoul is also likely to tell Krishna about a recent conference involving Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan in Moscow, said sources.

With Afghan parliamentary elections set for Sep 18, the Afghan side is also expected to inform India about the security situation in the country. Since campaigning officially started in June, violence has spiralled, killing around 300 civilians.

India is concerned about the recent signs of bonhomie between the Hamid Karzai government and the powers-that-be in Islamabad. Kabul, however, continues to be uneasy about Islamabad's increasingly proactive role in the reconciliation with the Taliban.

In a hard-hitting article in The Washington Post published Monday, Afghan National Security Adviser Rangin Dadfar Spanta warned the global community against committing a blunder by embracing Pakistan as a strategic partner despite the fact that terrorism emanating from the region is affecting India, Britain and others.

'Unfortunately, the military-intelligence establishment of one of our neighbours still regards Afghanistan as its sphere of influence,' stated Spanta, also a former foreign minister.

He claimed that despite the domestic terrorist threats, Pakistan 'continues to provide sanctuary and support to the (Taliban's) Quetta Shura, the Haqqani network, the Hekmatyar group and Al Qaeda.'

'And while the documents recently disclosed by WikiLeaks contained information that was neither new nor surprising, they did make public further evidence of the close relations among the Taliban, Al Qaeda and Pakistani intelligence,' he wrote.

Spanta's article has been noticed in Delhi, and has set the tone for the meeting between Krishna and Rassoul Wednesday.