M A I N   N E W S

US pull-out from Afghanistan not good for India: Manmohan
By Raj Chengappa

New Delhi, June 29
In his interaction with editors, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh dealt at length on relations with India’s neighbours and the international scene and seemed well briefed.He expressed concern about what he termed as a very uncertain neighbourhood and a very uncertain international economic environment. “India would have to swim through all this adversity and keep our heads high if we have to come through,” he said.

Speaking cautiously on Pakistan, he said he would pay his first visit to Islamabad only when he felt there was sufficient progress in talks. He felt that Pakistan had still not done enough to contain terror but believed that “India should continue to talk and engage with Pakistan to solve outstanding issues”.

On Afghanistan, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh felt that the time-bound pull-out of American troops announced by President Barack Obama recently was not good for India. He said, “It does hurt us. It could hurt us. No one knows what is going to happen in Afghanistan.”

About engaging with the Taliban, whether good or bad, he said: “I told the Afghan Parliament that the reconciliation should be Afghan-led. I think Hamid Karzai and other politicians can work on that. You cannot carry the good-bad Taliban distinction much too far.”

On Sri Lanka, while welcoming the defeat of the LTTE, he reiterated that the Sri Lankan government should find an equitable and just solution to the Tamil problem. “The Tamil problem does not disappear with the defeat of the LTTE. The Tamil population has legitimate grievances. They feel they are reduced to second-class citizens. And our emphasis has been to persuade the Sri Lankan government that we must move towards a new system of institutional reforms, where the Tamil people will have a feeling that they are equal citizens of Sri Lanka, and they can lead a life of dignity and self-respect,” Manmohan Singh said.

The PM had good words for Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa’s understanding of the Sri Lankan issue and believed that her government would act in moderation while making statements.

On Bangladesh, he expressed his happiness about the progress in relations, stating: “The Bangladesh Government has gone out of its way to help us in apprehending anti-India insurgent groups that were operating from Bangladesh for long. And that is why we have been generous in dealing with Bangladesh. We are not a rich country, but we offered it a line of credit of $1billion when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina came here. We are now looking at ways and means of some further unilateral concessions. We are also looking at ways and means of finding a practical and pragmatic solution to the sharing of Teesta waters. I plan to go there myself. The External Affairs Minister is planning to go later this week.”

But he had a word of caution about extremist forces in Bangladesh saying: “We must reckon that at least 25 per cent of the population of Bangladesh swears by the Jamiat-ul-Islami and they are very anti-Indian, and they are in the clutches, many times, of the ISI. So, the political landscape in Bangladesh can change at any time.” 





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