Thursday, September 28, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Putin to discuss Afghanistan
From Satish Misra
Tribune News Service

MOSCOW, Sept 27 — Afghanistan, international terrorism related with religious fundamentalism will figure prominently during the talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee beginning next week.

Talking to a group of visiting Indian mediapersons today, the Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration and Head of the Foreign Policy Division, Mr Sergai Prikhodko, said, "We are concerned over the developments in Afghanistan.” The Russian President would discuss the issue with the Indian Prime Minister.

“Developments in Afghanistan not only have a negative impact on the neighbouring countries but also have a direct influence on extremists, terrorists and other such elements,” Mr Prikhodko said in an obvious reference to the new emerging equations in Afghanistan.

While Moscow has been maintaining that there was no shift in its policy towards the Taliban regime in Kabul, informed sources said that Mr Putin’s administration had been undertaking a review of its decades old Afghan policy.

The arrival of Mr Putin’s adviser on Chechnya, Mr S. Yastyzhewbsky, in Islamabad yesterday is one indication of the subtle changes that are in the offing in the Russian policy towards Afghanistan in particular where he had gone as Mr Putin’s emissary to ostensibly convey a message to General Pervez Mushraff that Islamabad should rein in the Taliban and stop supporting acts of terrorism.

As a matter of fact, Russia in the changing international scenario, is slowly but surely opening channels of communications with Pakistan. Pakistan has to be roped in for evolving a long-term solution to the existing problems in the region, the Russian administration has begun to feel.

At the same time, it is a message even for New Delhi that Moscow is taking note of its growing proximity to Washington. On the other hand, the Russian officials, including Mr Prikhodko, are maintaining that there was no change in its Afghan and Pakistan policy.

When asked if Pakistan was extending support to terrorists in Chechnya, the Russian official said, "There are some quarters in Pakistan which are giving support”. When pressed further, Mr Prikhodko said there were a “lot of mercenaries fighting in Chechnya” but whether they were getting support from their respective governments was a different question.

To a question if Washington should be included in the Indo-Russian cooperation against terrorism, the Russian official said that there was no need for a new mechanism but existing forums like the UN should be strengthened. He further said that mechanism like Interpol should be put to effective use.

Talking on other subjects, the Russian President’s adviser said that over 12 agreements, including a Declaration on Strategic Partnership between India and Russia would be signed during Mr Putin’s stay in India. When asked about cooperation in the nuclear field, Mr Prikhodko said, "We both have some ideas to enlarge the cooperation in this field”. 

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