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India's hopes for Afghanistan talks

India's hopes for Afghanistan talks

Author: Alastair Lawson in Delhi
Publication: BBC News
Date: November 26, 2001

The Indian Government's special envoy to Afghanistan, Satinder Lambah, has gone to the German city of Bonn to observe talks that start on Tuesday on the future of Afghanistan.

In an interview with the BBC shortly before his departure, Mr Lambah said that India would like to see a broad based, multi-ethnic government in Afghanistan which did not include any representatives of the Taleban.

"We want an administration in Kabul that puts an end to the export of terrorism and extremism," he said.

"We would like to see the United Nations given an important role in ensuring an end to further violence."

Suffering

Mr Lambah said that above all, India would like to see everyone concerned with the fighting in Afghanistan to concentrate on the reconstruction of the country.

"That seems more important than ever," he said, "especially when its people have suffered so much over the last few years."

Mr Lambah said that although India has long supported the Northern Alliance, Delhi did not see its rapid advance in parts of Afghanistan as a diplomatic triumph.

"We are not attached to any particular faction or individual, although it's true to say we do have close links with the present government."

He insisted that India also enjoys close ties with the majority Pashtun community and had recently been in contact with Pashtun leaders who are likely to take part in a post-Taleban government.

"I made this point abundantly clear in my recent meetings in Kabul," he said.

"Our policy however is that ultimately it should be up to the people of Afghanistan to decide the make up of any future government and which elements of the Pashtun community should be included."

Kashmir concerns

The Indian special envoy to Afghanistan also repeated concerns expressed by some in the Indian Government that Taleban militants forced to leave Afghanistan may start to head towards Indian-administered Kashmir.

"In the past we have had bad experiences of Afghanistan being used as a factory to export terrorism and extremism. It now seems as the rest of the world has woken up to this danger as well."

Mr Lambah refused to speculate on Pakistan's role in recent events in Afghanistan.

But he did concede that there may be what he called a diplomatic divergence of opinion between Delhi and Islamabad over the precise make-up of any post Taleban administration.

He pointed out that India and Afghanistan have long enjoyed close ties.

His government has close links with the former Afghan monarch, Zahir Shah, he said, and has provided a sanctuary to thousands of Afghan refugees.

India has also provided a sanctuary to the widow of the former Afghan President Najibullah who lives in Delhi.
 


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