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Taliban issue to dominate Annan's talks with India

Taliban issue to dominate Annan's talks with India

Publication: The Economic Times
Date: March 10, 2001
Coming to India after four years, the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan has deliberately wiped out all thoughts of Kashmir from his head, though during his sojourn in Islamabad, he will doubtless get an earful on the subject from the Pakistani establishment.

His itinerary in India is packed with other, more internationally relevant issues. From international terrorism, Afghanistan and the problem of the Taliban to peace-keeping will dominate his discussions with Indian leaders.

In the past few years, Mr. Annan's proposals to visit India has prompted such a cool response that he has ended up skirting the country while visiting the region. In '98, after the nuclear tests, India refused to have to listen to a homily on nuclear weapons from him, or on the Kashmir problem. This time, his last stop will be India, after touring Kathmandu, Dhaka and Islamabad.

As a matter of fact, Mr. Annan's office went on record on Thursday to say that Kashmir would definitely not be on the agenda during his visit here. The clarification was necessary to keep tempers in check in Delhi, and not raise unnecessary hopes in Islamabad.

Undeterred, Pakistan is reportedly going out of its way to keep the Kashmir fires burning.

For India, the burning issue will be Afghanistan, Taliban, international terrorism and the desecration of heritage - all connected to the larger problem of religious fundamentalism. Being one of the five countries to sponsor the sanctions resolution on the Taliban (No 1333) last November, India has at last registered its interests in the fate of Afghanistan. This was duly acknowledged by the UN last year, when Mr. Annan's designated envoy, Francesc Vendrell, visited India in May and November to finesse the international position on Afghanistan.

Taliban's latest acts of destruction might prompt some countries to consider engaging them instead of isolating them. But India will make the argument that the forces of Taliban, whether from Afghanistan or Pakistan will need to be combatted not engaged.

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