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Obama, PM talk strategy

India was included in a round of conversations with world leaders that United States President Barack Obama made before announcing he would send 30,000 more US troops to fight in Afghanistan.

india Updated: Dec 02, 2009 00:18 IST
HT Correspondents

India was included in a round of conversations with world leaders that United States President Barack Obama made before announcing he would send 30,000 more US troops to fight in Afghanistan.

Obama communicated that the US broadly held the same view as India regarding Afghanistan: a US withdrawal would make the country a terrorist safe haven.

Obama’s phone call, said US diplomatic sources, was the first time the president had consulted New Delhi before a major policy statement — a practice common during the (George W.) Bush administration.

The Prime Minister’s Office said the two leaders held a “brief conversation” and discussed ways to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan.

They also spoke about the upcoming Copenhagen climate change conference. Singh assured Obama that “India will play a constructive role in the negotiations”.

Sources say Obama made it clear the US would not be disengaging from Afghanistan. They denied reports that he had asked India to train Afghan soldiers or send Indian troops to Afghanistan.

India has over 4,000 paramilitary soldiers in Afghanistan to protect aid worker and brings Afghan soldiers to India to teach them English.

Obama noted that Afghan stability would be helped if there were less tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad. But in keeping with the joint statement issued during Singh’s recent visit to the US, Obama was supportive of the Indian presence in Afghanistan.

Obama’s renewed commitment to Afghanistan is being seen as a rejection of the Pakistan military’s argument: allow the
Taliban a share of power in Kabul and Pakistan would take care of US concerns about renewed terrorism.

Instead, the US has come to the conclusion that a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan would lead to a similar takeover in Pakistan.

This partly reflects repeated Indian warnings against a US withdrawal from Afghanistan and its consequences. During their recent meeting, Obama had noted he had taken “counsel” from Singh about the region.

Obama also spoke with a number of world leaders, including Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and the contributors to the NATO force in Afghanistan.