Washington: Pakistan`s concerns about India`s presence in war-torn Afghan cities like Kandahar and Jalalabad is simply "exaggerated", a top Obama Administration official has said.
Coming in the wake of a terrorist attack on Indian consulate in Jalalabad last week, such a statement from the Obama Administration could be considered as significant.
"I think it`s exaggerated... That presence is rather minuscule. You`re talking about a dozen or two-dozen people at most. India has a strong economic and cultural presence in Afghanistan. It`s perfectly reasonably for them to have a diplomatic and consular presence in the country," Special US Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan James Dobbins told the BBCHindi.Com in an interview.
He was asked whether Indian presence in Afghan cities like Kandahar and Jalalabad makes Pakistan uncomfortable.
A suicide attack targetting Indian Consulate in Jalalabad killed 12 people, including three suicide bombers on Saturday. Many of the victims were children attending a religious class at the mosque located a short distance from the consulate.
"I understand the source of Pakistan`s concern. It relates to the issue of cross border militancy. As I`ve indicated the dominant infiltration of militants is from Pakistan into Afghanistan but recognise that there is some infiltration of hostile militants in the other direction as well so Pakistan`s concerns aren`t groundless, they`re simply in our judgments exaggerated," Dobbins said.
Dobbins, who visited India a couple of weeks ago, said, "I don`t think either India or Pakistan want NATO or the US to leave entirely. I`m sure that both India and Pakistan will be using their influence in essentially the same manner.
"In order to encourage the Afghans to conclude an agreement with the US and with NATO which will allow a continued military presence to advise and assist the afghan security forces. In this regard India and Pakistani policies are identical."
Dobbins said his biggest concerns for both Afghanistan and Pakistan are similar. "They derive from the continued threat of insurgency and militant groups that want to overthrow the government, overthrow the constitutional order, undermine democracy," he said.
"I think one shouldn`t be naively optimistic about the future but at the same time I think both countries have a capability of overcoming these challenges, particularly if they cooperate.
On the other hand if they don`t cooperate, I think for both countries this is going to be a much more dangerous challenge," he said.