Krishna to meet Clinton in Kabul today

The recent India-Pakistan talks and Obama’s visit to India will be discussed during the meeting.

New Delhi: The recent India-Pakistan talks and the preparations for US President Barack Obama’s visit to India will be discussed when External Affairs Minister SM Krishna meets US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Kabul Tuesday.

Krishna and Clinton will meet on the sidelines of an international conference Tuesday on the future of Afghanistan hosted by Kabul.

Foreign ministers and representatives of 70 countries and international organizations will be participating in the conference.

This will be the largest gathering of international leaders in Afghanistan since the 1970s, where the Karzai government will seek international assistance for bolstering governance and national stability.

Accompanied by Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and senior officials of the external affairs ministry, Krishna left for Kabul yesterday afternoon.

Clinton is in Kabul after holding strategic dialogue with Pakistani leaders in Islamabad.

Krishna and Clinton will discuss agenda for Obama’s state visit to India in November and review the recent visit of US National Security Adviser James Jones to New Delhi. India is hoping for the easing of US high-tech exports as a major gain during Obama’s visit.

The prospects of dialogue between India and Pakistan, specially after the recent foreign-ministers meeting, is also likely to figure in the discussions, sources said.

In her discussions with Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari Sunday, Clinton, according to Pakistani media reports, encouraged the continuation of dialogue between India and Pakistan.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, with whom Krishna held foreign-minister talks in Islamabad, will also be in Kabul to participate in the conference. But no bilateral meeting is on the cards.

The talks between Krishna and Qureshi July 15 deadlocked on issues of terror and Jammu and Kashmir, leading to discord and bad blood between the two sides.

At the Kabul conference, Krishna is expected to air India’s concerns about the proposed reintegration of the Taliban, a contentious proposal of luring low-level Taliban operatives with cash and job incentives, which was endorsed by the 70-nation London conference on Afghanistan six months ago.

At that time, India reluctantly went along with the idea but on condition that only those Taliban who renounce links to al-Qaeda and accept the Afghan constitution are accommodated.

India, which has invested $1.3 billion in multifarious socio-economic reconstruction projects in Afghanistan, has strongly opposed any distinction between the good Taliban and bad Taliban and regards the hardline Islamist militia as a threat to regional security.

Pakistan has scaled up efforts to influence power-sharing negotiations in Afghanistan, specially in view of the July 2011 date set for beginning of a phased withdrawal of US forces from that country.