Pakistan acts to counter Indian influence in AfghanistanJanuary 26, 2010
By Sajjad Malik
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has successfully mobilised the defunct six-plus-two talks formula to counter the US pressure regarding giving India a “greater role” in warn-torn Afghanistan’s rehabilitation.
Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours – Pakistan, Iran, China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, as well as the US, are meeting today (Tuesday) in Turkey to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and to take stock of measures for the restoration of peace in the country.
The original “six-plus-two” also included Russia, but in the new set up Moscow representation has been replaced by the United Kingdom.
The Chinese foreign minister and senior officials from Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan will attend the conference, which will also be attended by British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and US Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke’s deputy, Paul Jones.
Diplomatic sources said Pakistan has been lobbying for the renewal of talks among Afghanistan’s neighbours in order to foil Indian designs of gaining a foothold on Afghan soil.
Pakistan believes India is not an immediate neighbour of Afghanistan and therefore should have limited role in the country.
Turkey has been asked to convene the meeting, as it enjoys the backing and trust of Pakistan and is accepted as a neutral party for promoting a common approach to the conflict. The conference will urge regional players to work together in order to stabilise Afghanistan and the region.
The revival of the talks group has come at a crucial juncture – on Thursday, around 50 nations will be meeting at the London Conference to discuss the Afghan issue and deliberate on measures to help the war-ravaged nation.
The organisers of the London Conference, like the US, are trying to convince Pakistan on accepting the greater Indian role in Afghanistan.
Destabilisation: “It is not possible for us to give India a role in Afghanistan as it is using Afghan soil to destabilise Pakistan. Also, India has been traditionally aligned with Russia and played a part in the destruction of Afghanistan,” sources said. They said the last meeting of the six-plus-two group was held before the 9/11 attacks and the Taliban had agreed to give 80 percent of representation in the Afghan government to the Northern Alliance. “Since then, fortunes have reversed and the Taliban have lost the government. Now the six-plus-two group will try to pave the way for the participation of the Taliban in the new government,” sources said.
The coalition forces badly need breathing space in Afghanistan following a deadly 2009, in which the force lost at least 504 soldiers, including 305 US and 108 British troops. Sources said US-led forces were giving a thought to Pakistan’s viewpoint on the Afghan conflict, an idea substantiated by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates’ statement during a recent visit to Pakistan that said that Washington was with Pakistan and supported its efforts for peace in Afghanistan.
The presence of both the UK and the US at the Turkish initiative speaks volumes about their interest in a regional solution.