The London Conference on Afghanistan has hit a bump and the UK, the host, has sought India’s help to get the US on board for the meet that will discuss among other things a “regional stabilisation council”.
The conference, planned for January 28, is based on the British idea of regional players, including India, Pakistan, Iran, China and Russia, becoming stakeholders in the peace process.
The UK — which sought Indian intervention ahead of US Defence Secretary Robert Gates’ recent visit to Delhi — it is learnt, has told India that the Chinese response has been “frustrating”. While Iran has set some stringent conditions, both Russia and the US are not too keen on the council.
Pakistan has already made known its opposition to India being part of such an arrangement.
India, too, is not exactly excited. It had sought UK's intervention after it was left out of a conference being held on January 26 in Istanbul in the run-up to the London met.
The British foreign office, it is learnt, told India that the Afghan conference was their prime minister’s initiative. In other words, it conveyed “constrains about India” seeking participation in the Istanbul meet, where Pakistan is an invitee.
Pakistan has been against any role for India in Afghanistan. With $1.3 billion aid, India is one of the biggest donors for the war-ravaged country.
The UK is keen that the regional compact, which will also have Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan on board, is in place when the US troops pullout begins in June 2011. With the US at the forefront of events in that country, its support is a must for the success of such an effort.
As a neighbour, and a Saarc (South Asian Association for regional Conference) partner, stakes were high for India as far as stable and prosperous Afghanistan was concerned, said a government official.
“It has a direct bearing on the entire region, and the same view has been conveyed to the US,” said the official who didn't want to be identified as he is not authorised to speak to the media.