As it begins implementation of its new strategy on Afghanistan and Pakistan, the US today underlined the critical role of India in the success of the policy as there was a “common threat”.
US Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke, who held talks with Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and National Security Adviser M K Narayanan, underlined that he was not visiting the region to “negotiate” between India and Pakistan.
“The answer is no,” Holbrooke said at a press conference here when asked whether he had asked his Indian interlocutors to resume talks with Pakistan.
“Let me just be clear on my one word answer. We did not come here to ask the Indians to do anything. We came here to inform about our trips (to Afghanistan and Pakistan) as we always do and to get their views. We did not come here with any requests,” said Holbrooke, while addressing the press along with US Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen.
Holbrooke and Mullen emphasised that their visit here was in connection with the new strategy on Afghanistan and Pakistan, which the US has just started to implement.
"We cannot settle issues like Afghanistan and many other issues without India’s full involvement and its own expression of views,“ said Holbrooke while pointing out that he had come to “listen” to Indian views and that his discussions with Indian officials were “terrific”.
Contending that “priorities” of both India and the US in Afghanistan are the same, the Special Envoy on Afghanistan and Pakistan said “coordination”, however, was missing and that his visit here along with Mullen was aimed at accelerating that.
“Everyone in this part of the world should recognise that for the first time since Partition, India, Pakistan and the US face a common threat and a common challenge and we have a common task,” he said.
Acknowledging that there was “history” between India and Pakistan as well as between Pakistan and Afghanistan, he said “but now as we face a common threat, we must work together.”
He said the US is “working intensively with our friends in Pakistan to achieve a common goal. That is what we are doing. We know it’s going to be difficult but the national security interests of all three countries are clearly at stake.”
Noting that Pakistan is at the centre of the common fight, Holbrooke said, “What happens in Afghanistan is profoundly affected by what happens in Pakistan and the two issues are deeply inter-related.”
He voiced concern over the peace deal between government and Taliban in Swat region of Pakistan and said the worries had been “further raised” after terror attacks on Sri Lankan cricket team and police training centre in Lahore.
“What has happened in Swat has stunned many people in Pakistan,” the Special Envoy said, adding “everyone in this part of the world should recognise what’s happening.”
Holbrooke said during his visit to Pakistan he had met some people from Swat to “learn more” about the peace deal and observed that “it was a difficult and touching meeting”.
He described Baitullah Mehsud, chief of Pakistani Taliban as “a terrible man” and “a great danger to Pakistan, Afghanistan ... He (Mehsud) is as bad as any bad actor in a very dangerous region.”
Asked about his assessment on whether the ISI was ready to sever its ties with terrorists, Mullen said that one of the priority issues of his visits to Pakistan over the last one year has been the “focus on intelligence activities and doing that in a constructive way”.
He said the focus continues to be that but refused to go into the details of the discussions that were going on.