Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron will acknowledge New Delhi’s increasingly important role in global efforts to find a solution to the Afghan crisis but will urge the need to “engage” with Pakistan, a minister in his cabinet has told HT.
“India has its own perspective and may at some stage have felt rather excluded from the conversations and whether or not they were going to be part of the answer as well,” Alistair Burt, foreign affairs minister responsible for South Asia, said.
“One of the messages the Prime Minister will be taking to India with him is a recognition of its role in relation to this. The Prime Minister himself is keen to address this issue,” Burt said after a discussion on Afghanistan at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a London thinktank.
“The British government has an increasing sense of both India and Pakistan as partners in dealing with this problem.”
Cameron is leading a high-level delegation to India — his first bilateral overseas visit since taking over as Prime Minister in May. The team for the July 28-29 visit may include several of the most important men in his government — among those being named are Foreign Minister William Hague, Finance Minister George Osborne, Business Minister Vince
Cable and Defence Minister Liam Fox, junior ministers and key business leaders What Cameron’s recognition of India’s Afghan role means on the ground is unclear. A top British diplomat in the region cautioned against allowing expectations to be raised.
He told HT there was little to quibble about India’s “role and aspirations” but that Delhi should “show a statesmanlike understanding of Pakistan’s paranoia about India in Afghanistan.”
The plea is likely to leave New Delhi deeply unimpressed, a strategic analyst said.
“David Cameron is likely to face questions about the West’s dependence on Pakistan,” said IISS South Asia analyst Rahul Roy Chaudhury.
“The message that Cameron takes with him to India is very important because it’s the UK that came up with offers of building a special relationship and enhanced partnership with India.”
Key differences mark out Indian and Western approaches toward Afghanistan, revolving around the role of Pakistan, “reconciliation” attempts aimed at sections of the Taliban, which India opposes, and moves to withdraw Western troops.