Islamabad: Pakistan has revived an eight-country grouping to counter the US’ pressure for giving India a greater role in war-torn Afghanistan`s reconstruction, according to a media report on Tuesday.
Following an initiative spearheaded by Islamabad, Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours - Pakistan, Iran, China, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan - are participating along with the US and Britain in a meeting being held today in Turkey to discuss the situation in Afghanistan.
Pakistan has been lobbying for the renewal of talks among Afghanistan’s neighbours to "foil Indian designs of gaining a foothold on Afghan soil," diplomatic sources were quoted as saying by Daily Times newspaper.
Pakistan believes India is "not an immediate neighbour of Afghanistan and therefore should have a limited role" in that country, the sources said.
Turkey has been asked to convene the meeting as it enjoys the trust of Pakistan and is accepted as a neutral party for promoting a common approach to the conflict in
The meeting will also take stock of measures to restore peace in the war-ravaged country. The original "six-plus-two" grouping also included Russia but that country has been replaced in the new set-up by Britain.
The Chinese Foreign Minister and senior officials from Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan will attend the meeting.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and US Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke’s deputy, Paul Jones, will also attend it. The meeting will urge regional players to work together to stabilise Afghanistan and the region.
The revival of the grouping comes ahead of a conference of around 50 countries in London on Thursday to discuss the Afghan issue and deliberate on measures to help the war-ravaged country.
The organisers of the London Conference, like the US, are trying to convince Pakistan to accept a greater Indian role in Afghanistan.
The Daily Times quoted its sources as saying that it was not possible for Pakistan to give India a role in Afghanistan "as it is using Afghan soil to destabilise Pakistan”.
The sources also claimed India had traditionally "aligned with Russia and played a part in the destruction of Afghanistan”.
The sources said the last meeting of the "six-plus-two" grouping was held before the 9/11 terror attacks and the Taliban had agreed to give 80 percent representation in the Afghan government to the Northern Alliance.
"Since then, fortunes have reversed and the Taliban have lost the government. Now the six-plus-two group will try to pave the way for the participation of the Taliban in the new government," a source said.
The US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan need breathing space following a deadly year - the alliance lost 504 soldiers, including 305 US and 108 British troops, in 2009.
The sources claimed US-led forces were giving thought to Pakistan`s viewpoint on the Afghan conflict, an idea substantiated by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates` statement during a recent visit to Islamabad.
Gates had said the US is with Pakistan and supported its efforts for peace in Afghanistan.