The United States reassured India that its plan to withdraw its military forces from Afghanistan by 2014 did not mean it was totally abandoning the war-torn country.
In a meeting between the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry and the Indian foreign secretary Nirupama Rao, the former reassured the latter that withdrawal will not be absolute.
He was responding to Indian concerns that a total withdrawal of Nato forces from Afghanistan would plunge the country into civil war, leading to the establishment of a Pakistan-controlled Taliban regime.
India is keen to have at least a neutral Afghanistan, if not one overtly friendly to it, to preclude the possibility of an even more aggressive and stronger Pakistan.
Pakistan, on the other hand, is seen as eager to re-establish Taliban rule over Afghanistan as the latter are much more friendly to Pakistan than the current Karzai regime.
Senator Kerry, however, seemed to indicate that the US has no wish to see the results of its decade-long occupation and ‘cleansing’ operation in Afghanistan be reversed by a total withdrawal of forces. The US is in the midst of a scaling down of operations that is likely to culminate in 2014.
“He [Kerry] assured Rao that the July 2011 date to begin withdrawal of combat forces from Afghanistan would not end U.S. commitment in Afghanistan,” a US cable cable written in February last year, leaked by Wikileaks, noted.
The cable then went on to note that the US wanted a change how Pakistan interacted with Islamist and Taliban forces, such as its own Haqqani network. It was not clear from the cable whether he meant it as a precondition to the complete withdrawal of forces.
“The date was intended to bring leverage to bear on Afghan officials to make necessary reforms. On the Pakistani side of the border, a change was needed in the dynamics of how a fragile Pakistani civilian government and its strong military interacted with groups such as the Quetta Shura and Haqqani,” it said.
The US Senator also tried to again push the idea of an international intervention in Kashmir, despite the fact that India has been dead against any such move.
India considers Kashmir an internal, at best a bilateral issue between itself and Pakistan, and has resisted Pakistan’s attempts to involve foreign agencies and countries in the dispute over territory.
This time, however, the Indian foreign secretary is recorded as having merely parried the question, instead of rejecting the idea outright.
“Senator Kerry asked if there were ways the United States could engage differently that would support the talks, perhaps through a regional approach that offered security guarantees with other interested states that would promote stability.
“Rao urged that the U.S. use it “enormous power” to encourage Pakistan to move forward in a productive way to create a positive climate for discussions. On process, Rao assured Kerry that India and Pakistan had established bilateral processes that should be used.
“As to Kerry’s suggestion of a regional approach that also involved outside powers, Rao said her instinctive reaction was that India and Pakistan needed to engage more effectively to create a level of trust that would support bilateral talks first,” the cable noted.
Rao also complained about lack of co-operation from Pakistan on whittling down anti-India activities on its soil.
“..terrorist camps still remained open; infiltration over the Line of Control had seen an unseasonable increase during the winter; LeT and JuD leaders like Hafiz Saeed had threatened India with jihaad at large public rallies; and GOP rhetoric against India was on the rise. India wanted to see concrete steps to dismantle these structures,” the cable quoted her as saying.