M A I N   N E W S

India wants US forces to stay in Kabul
Ashok Tuteja/TNS

New Delhi, May 5
India’s worries about the situation in Afghanistan have only increased in the wake Osama bin Laden’s killing deep inside Pakistan. It is not in favour of a hasty withdrawal by US-led coalition forces from the war-ravaged nation.

New Delhi would frankly convey this opinion to the American side when US Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano visits India later this month, official sources said.

India’s apprehension is that the US, emboldened by the success of its mission to kill bin Laden, might actually start withdrawing troops from Afghanistan from July this year, leaving New Delhi exposed to an unfriendly Pakistan-dominated neighbourhood.

Agency reports, meanwhile, suggested that India has issued a high security alert for its missions and other interests in Afghanistan in the wake of bin Laden’s killing. Drawing attention towards Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s reaction to the Al-Qaida chief’s death, the sources said he was obviously alluding to Pakistan when he stated that the war against terrorism should not be fought in the villages of Afghanistan but in the sanctuaries, the hubs and the recruiting centres of terrorists.

The sources said any precipitous withdrawal of coalition forces from the embattled nation would spell disaster for the whole region as it would give a free hand to Pakistan-based terror outfits like the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) to run amok in Afghanistan. There was much more needed to be done in Afghanistan to stabilise the situation in the battle-scarred country.Observing that the threat to the region from terrorist syndicates had not diminished even after the death of bin Laden, the sources said it was necessary for the coalition forces to stay the course in Afghanistan so that there was no regression to the situation that existed before 2001.

On the West’s proposal for reconciliation with the Taliban in Afghanistan, the sources said a cautious approach must be adopted in the matter. “One can’t disregard the red lines that were drawn towards the reconciliation process at the International Donors’ Conference on Afghanistan in London (in January 2010)…otherwise the recipe is going to be disturbing for the entire region.’’

New Delhi’s view is that any reconciliation with the Taliban must be transparent and Afghan-led and not brokered by Pakistan. In this connection, they also pointed out how ‘jihadi’ outfits in Pakistan had declared bin Laden a martyr. “This should make us sit up and realise that the ‘jehadi’ mindset can’t be discarded so easily,” they added in the context of attempts at reintegrating the Taliban into the mainstream of the Afghan society.

India, on its part, would continue with its massive reconstruction programme in Afghanistan. It would also like Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan and Central Asian countries to be fully involved in finding a solution to the Afghan crisis. “We don’t want Pakistan to be excluded from the process but at the same time no attempt should be made to exclude India either,” they added in an obvious reference to Pakistan’s bid to isolate India on the Afghan issue.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was scheduled to visit Afghanistan this week to reaffirm India’s commitment to the goal of achieving peace in the troubled nation and to review the progress of various projects undertaken by India there. 

Geelani’s appeal: Offer prayers for Osama

Srinagar: The hardline APHC chairman, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, has appealed to all Imams, religious scholars and people to offer special prayers for the last rites in absentia after the Friday prayers for the Al-Qaida’s founder leader, Osama bin Laden, who was killed in Pakistan by a US Navy team on last Sunday night.Geelani described Osama as a “martyr”, but added that the 9/11 bombing of the twin towers in New York was a terrorist activity.





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