Neighbours uneasy with Afghan pact

NEW DELHI: Recent moves by Afghanistan and Pakistan to improve their once-frosty relationship have prompted deep concern in other countries in the region and led some to consider strengthening ties to the political rivals of the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai.The US government considers the Afghan-Pakistan overtures essential to combating insurgencies racking both nations. But India, Iran and Afghanistan’s northern neighbours fear they are a step towards fulfilling Mr Karzai’s desire to negotiate with Taliban leaders and possibly welcome some of them into the government.These nations think Mr Karzai’s plans could compromise their security and interests by lessening the influence of Afghanistan’s Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara ethnic minorities, with whom they have cultivated close links, diplomats and government officials say.The apprehension, recently voiced by senior Indian officials, has emerged as yet another challenge for the US, which seeks to encourage new initiatives to stabilise Afghanistan while minimising fallout on the already tense relationship between India and Pakistan.In an attempt to assuage those concerns, the US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, went to New Delhi last week to meet the Indian National Security Adviser and the Foreign Secretary.The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, also arrived last week for two days of meetings with military and civilian leaders.India has been angered by recent meetings involving Mr Karzai and Pakistan’s top two security officials, General Ashfaq Kiyani, the army chief, and Lieutenant-General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the intelligence director.Afghanistan and Pakistan have signed a trade agreement that allows Afghan trucks to drive through Pakistan to the Indian border. Indian officials had wanted to send their trucks through Pakistan to Afghanistan, but the Pakistani government insisted they not be included in the negotiations.Compounding India’s resentment is that it believed it had cultivated close ties with Mr Karzai. India has opened four consulates in Afghanistan, even though relatively few Indian citizens live there, and invested $US1.3 billion ($1.45 billion) in development projects, far more than Pakistan has.”The Indians are shell-shocked,” said a Western diplomat. ”They went in with more than a billion dollars, and now Pakistan is eating their lunch.”? The Taliban have offered to exchange the body of a US Navy member they said was killed in an ambush on Friday in exchange for insurgent prisoners, an Afghan official said.US and NATO officials said two US Navy personnel went missing in their four-wheel-drive on Friday in the eastern province of Logar. Afghan officials believe one was killed and the other captured when they took a wrong turn into a Taliban-held area.The Washington Post, Associated Press
Nanjing Night Net