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India a mute spectator at Afghanistan summit

As the very significant London Conference on Afghanistan got underway on Friday, it was very apparent that none of the world leaders working on the issue are envisioning a role for India in the reconstruction of Afghanistan — as yet.

world Updated: Jan 29, 2010 23:46 IST
Sujata Anandan

As the very significant London Conference on Afghanistan got underway on Friday, it was very apparent that none of the world leaders working on the issue are envisioning a role for India in the reconstruction of Afghanistan — as yet.

Although Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna was part of the 70-nation delegation of foreign ministers to the conference, he was largely a mute spectator.

So, was Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who then chose to wander into the media enclosure and make his presence felt.

Krishna, though, kept up a discreet silence and distance from the media, obviously believing in the principle that silence is golden.

Pinned down by Indian journalists at the media briefing later in the day, Britain’s Foreign Secretary David Milliband was embarrassed into making conciliatory noises about India’s role, saying nothing about it at all but stressing that there will be a role to play, by and by, though that may be.

Meanwhile, the conference proved to be a success with Afghan President Hamid Karzai stressing that his country was prepared to reconcile with the Taliban and reintegrate them into the national mainstream. However, the entire process might take as long as 15 years, Karzai said, adding he looked to leading nations to support Afghanistan in the next decade-and-a-half.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown held out the hope that results will begin to show by July 2011. A military presence of leading nations would remain in Afghanistan but the process would be increasingly Afghan-led with no combat role for any foreign troops in the region, he said.

That was a point also emphasised by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She said that among the nations which have made huge commitments to Afghanistan today are Italy, Germany and Romaina, which would provide troops and Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Russia, which will open up their air spaces. Japan, too, has pledged a huge commitment of $50 million to the process.