INTERVIEW
 
Afghan peace rests on progress in Indo-Pak ties
Express India
5 October 2011
LONDON: Pakistan cannot have a veto over the right of Afghan government to have relationship with India, former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal has said, making it clear that New Delhi has no interest in getting involved in military situation in the war-torn country.

Islamabad continues to press the international community to reduce India's role in Afghanistan but the idea has met with little success as it has been rejected by the US, the former top diplomat said at an international conference on Afghanistan here yesterday.

Visualizing no light visible at the end of Afghan tunnel, Sibal said that Pakistan for over 30 years had intervened in Afghanistan politically and militarily which was hitting the mood to find a viable peace in the country.

Sibal said the best scenario for the country would be US success in forcing Pakistan to change its Afghan policies fundamentally, abandon its terrorists links and see advantages in normalizing relations with India and join in the larger project of creating a shared stable space covering central and South Asia.

India remained cautious about being caught in the Afghan tangle more than necessary, the former diplomat said, adding that it would be a "grave mistake to induct Indian troops into Afghanistan while Western troops were being withdrawn."

Pakistan will exploit the situation to the hilt in such a scenario by sending Jihadi elements – both Afghani and Pakistani – at India. The other prominent speakers at the day long conference organised by Asia Pacific Foundation and George C Marshall European Centre for security studies included former Afghan intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh.

Saleh said, "Pakistan army is the largest political party in Pakistan and is using Taliban as its tool." He also said that Lashkar-e-Toiba is also a branch of the Pakistan army.

Sibal, who was one of the key speakers, said that former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani's assassination was a setback to the reconciliation process. Blaming Pakistan for the continued strife in Afghanistan, the former diplomat said the deteriorating relations between Washington and Islamabad would make the transition process more difficult.

Pakistani scholar Ishtiaq Ahmad said: "India and Pakistan cannot hope to make progress in their peace process... if their strategic rivalry over Afghanistan continues unabated.

He said: "Progress in India-Pakistan peace process is imperative for preventing the recurrence of this proxy war following the withdrawal of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan. This is the only way to address Pakistan's insecurity dilemma caused by India's proactive role in post- Taliban Afghanistan and India's principal worry about Pakistan attempting to re-install the Taliban in power."

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