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'We’ll deliver Taliban, you deliver India'

The Pakistan army has admitted it is in contact with Afghan Taliban leaders, including Mullah Mohammad Omar, and can bring them to the negotiating table with the US.

world Updated: Jul 12, 2009 00:17 IST

The Pakistan army has admitted it is in contact with Afghan Taliban leaders, including Mullah Mohammad Omar, and can bring them to the negotiating table with the US.

But its price for brokering a peace is for the US to address its concerns regarding India’s presence in Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s chief military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas, in a CNN interview, said the military is still in contact with Taliban commanders like Mullah Omar, Jalalladin Haqqani, Mullah Nazir and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar of the Hizb-e-Islami.

The Inter-Services Public Relations subsequently denied Abbas’s statements, CNN, however, has posted the video on its website.

“No intelligence organisation in the world shuts its last door on any other organisation. So therefore, the contacts are there. The communication remains,” Abbas said.

The quid pro quo, he said, for any role as a broker between the US and the Taliban, Pakistan wants concessions from Washington over Islamabad’s concerns with long-time rival India.

“What we see as a concern is an over-involvement of Indians in Afghanistan that becomes a concern — particularly if one is watching the security calculus in that,” he said. “The fear is, tomorrow what happens if these Americans move out and they are replaced by Indians as military trainers? That becomes a serious concern. So these kind of apprehensions are there, and they are talked about and they are consulted.”

Pakistan has informed the US-led coalition countries about its our concerns. “They have to have a line because if [it] goes beyond them, beyond the line then of course the situation would take an ugly turn,” he warned. CNN said senior US officials had said they are “willing both to talk to top Taliban leaders and to raise some of Pakistan’s concerns with India”.

In reply to another question on whether Pakistan could provide assistance to a US mission for dialogue, he replied: “I think yes that can be worked out, that’s possible.”

Islamabad-based defence analyst Ayesha Siddiqa said it “comes as no surprise that such a statement was made.” She said that in the past too, there have been occasions where Pakistani generals have made such statements in which they hinted at possible links with the Taliban.

A Pakistani journalist said a similar admission had been made by the Pakistani army chief earlier in the year.