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Indian role in Afghanistan crucial: Burns

world Updated: May 10, 2009 15:00 IST
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Stating that India has a crucial role to play in rebuilding Afghanistan, a former top US official has said it would be a "major mistake" to prevent New Delhi from contributing to the development of the war-ravaged country at the insistence of Pakistan.

"I don't think we can afford to turn down assistance from great countries like India. India has a major role to play in Afghanistan," former US Under Secretary of state for Political Affairs, Nicholas Burns said.

"I don't think we're in the position to say this country cannot participate in rebuilding of Afghanistan because of differences between Pakistan and India," he told Yale Global Online in an interview.

Observing that the Indian role in helping Afghans has been very positive, Burns, who played a key role in signing of the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal in the Bush Administration, said: "I think that would be a grave mistake. And India needs to be given its place to work alongside the rest of us to help the Afghan people."

Burns was responding to a question that Pakistan's Army is now beginning to say that will not cooperate with the US if India, with its $1.2 billion programme of building schools, hospitals and roads, does not stop doing so.

"I don't know if that is Pakistani policy, but if it were to become Pakistani policy, it would be a major mistake," Burns said.