India`s Afghan stand resonates at Istanbul summit

India stressed on the need to delete safe havens, a stand that was reflected in the outcome document of Turkey summit.

Updated: Nov 03, 2011, 00:43 AM IST

Istanbul: Demanding an end to external
interference in Afghan internal affairs, India on Wednesday stressed
on the need to eliminate safe havens and sanctuaries, a stand that was reflected in the outcome document of a crucial
one-day international conference held here.

Krishna had led a high-powered delegation which included
Special Envoy of Prime Minister S K Lambah and Foreign
Secretary Ranjan Mathai here to attend the conference.

External Affairs Minister SM Krishna, addressing those
present at the `Istanbul Conference on Afghanistan: Security
and Cooperation in the Heart of Asia`, including Pakistan
President Asif Ali Zardari, said recent history has shown that
an end to Afghanistan`s suffering requires an end to external
interference in its internal affairs.

"Issues regarding safe havens and sanctuaries beyond
Afghanistan`s borders have to be addressed...need a road map
that follows up our conclusions to address the challenges," he
said.

On its part, Afghanistan termed the cooperation with New
Delhi as a "turning point" and pitched for a bigger role for
India in the region for desirable reasons.

Official sources said that the outcome document of
the conference "clearly reflects" the concerns of India and
other members of the international community regarding
terrorism with references to the need for elimination of safe
havens and sanctuaries.

It also talks about non-interference in the internal
affairs of Afghanistan and to respect the sovereignty and
territorial integrity of Afghanistan.

They added "India played a key role...the conference
document emphasizes the importance of adhering to the
red lines, that is abjuring violence, cutting links with
terrorist groups and respecting the constitution of
Afghanistan."

The Istanbul conference that was held almost 10 years after the Taliban militia were driven out of power in Kabul by a US-led coalition, was attended by representatives from 20 countries.

But the hardline Islamists remain a deadly force in Afghanistan, continuing to wage attacks against Afghan, US and NATO forces.

Kabul, like Washington, has complained that Islamabad is not doing enough against the Taliban and al Qaeda whose militants have found refuge in Pakistani tribal areas on the Afghan border.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai
again pressed Pakistan to help his country negotiate with the
Taliban, despite a series of high-profile assassinations and
attacks that have diminished peace prospects and intensified
suspicions that Islamabad supports and shelters the militants.

Karzai said a peace process cannot succeed without the
participation of the top leadership of the Taliban, which he
alleged was based in Pakistan.

"Our hope is that, with help from our brothers in
Pakistan, we will manage to wean away the Taliban leadership
from some of the long-established networks of support they
enjoy outside Afghanistan and integrate them into the peace
process," the Afghan leader said.

Pakistan denies that the Afghan Taliban`s top leaders are
based on its territory. It has bristled at US and Afghan
accusations it plays a double game, fighting some militant
groups while supporting others it views as potential useful
proxies in future conflicts with archrival India.

But the September 20 assassination of Burhanuddin
Rabbani, a former president and leader of the Afghan High
Peace Council, as well as other high-profile attacks in
Afghanistan some ascribed to the Haqqani network, a militant
group with bases in Pakistan have added to concerns about
Islamabad`s loyalties.

Karzai and his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari
yesterday discussed a joint inquiry into Rabbani`s killing.

But since the Pakistani army has far more sway over foreign
policy than Zardari`s weak government, it`s unclear how much
the Pakistan president can accomplish.

In a statement, the Afghan High Peace Council said it was
continuing work to open negotiations with the Taliban, but
would not talk to anyone whose identity could not be verified
or who appeared to be pushing the political goals of other
countries.

"It is time that our neighboring countries stop their
interference, and rather than increasing violence in
Afghanistan, allow the Afghan people to live in peace and
prosperity," the council said.

In an opulent hall on the shores of the Bosporus Strait,
delegates delivered speeches promising support for Afghan
sovereignty, and endorsed a transition to Afghan security
leadership, efforts for a political solution to the war and
economic development.

China, India and Iran sent envoys at the conference. The
US and other countries with troops in Afghanistan also sent
representatives.

"The terrorism, extremism, as well as drugs and human
trafficking that Afghanistan is struggling against are not
problems that one country can deal with on its own," Turkish
President Abdullah Gul said.

US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns cited an
October 29 suicide truck bombing in Kabul that killed 17
people, including a number of Americans, as an example of US
sacrifice in Afghanistan. He said regional powers had often
acted "in ways that make things worse," instead of cooperating
to solve problems.

The Istanbul conference on Afghanistan drew regional players as well
as Western powers. While a successful show of solidarity, the
gathering also underscored how much is left to do in
Afghanistan as international combat forces prepare to leave by
the end of 2014.

PTI