US diplomat's Afghanistan peace theory baffles New Delhi

Published: 28th June 2013 06:45 AM  |   Last Updated: 28th June 2013 06:45 AM   |  A+A-

There is a feeling of deja-vu in the South Block corridors as visiting US special representative on Af-Pak James Dobbins brought back a frequent narrative among American officials that the mess in Afghanistan is a consequence of Indo-Pakistan rivalry.

“Any improvement in Indo-Pak ties will almost automatically improve the Afghanistan situation,” Dobbins told reporters here on Thursday.

He arrived in New Delhi on Wednesday and had separate meetings with PM’s special envoy S K Lambah and Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai.

Dobbins’ remarks would have given led to flashbacks for Indian observers. This is a pet theory in influential circles in Washington and is peddled out at regular intervals -- if only India was willing to go an extra mile by agreeing to resolve the Kashmir imbroglio, Pakistan would not be interested in meddling in Afghanistan’s internal affairs.

The statement by Dobbins comes in the wake of an essay published by the Washington-based think tank Brookings Institution. “The hostility between India and Pakistan lies at the heart of the current war in Afghanistan,” wrote popular historian William Dalrymple, who has recently published a book on the first Anglo-Afghan war.

The advocacy of this theory is significant as it comes at a time when the US is trying to reach a political settlement with Taliban, before foreign troops start leaving the war-ravaged country from next year.

Those efforts are temporarily stalled due to the Taliban office in Doha displaying the flag and plaque of ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’ - that led to Kabul quickly pulling the plug on negotiations for a security pact. Washington, of course, feels that Islamabad is key to pushing the Taliban and its various factions to the table.

During his visit earlier this week, US Secretary of State John Kerry was quick to soothe Indian concerns on the role of Taliban, the Haqqani network and by default, Pakistan in the reconciliation talks.

These views were reiterated by Dobbins, who asserted that Taliban needs to adhere to the redlines before the talks resumed.

“In an agreement, they (Taliban) need to improve on cessation of hostilities, respectfully attend the Constitution and go about severing its ties with al-Qaeda and similar terrorist organisations,” Dobbins said.

Despite allegations by Pakistan that Indian consulates foment terror across the border, the image of India in Afghanistan, so far, is that of a “generous donor”, with a bilateral assistance program of over $2 billion.

In fact, Afghan Education Minister Ghulam Farooq Wardak is currently on a visit to India, as New Delhi is one of the largest providers of education scholarships to Afghan citizens under various programmes.

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