Mention of India Minimal, Pakistan The Elephant in the Room During US-Afghan Bilateral Talks

Daniel Feldman, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan gestures during press conference

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Washington, DC – The Obama Administration officials hinted at a “quite soon” visit to Delhi by Afghanistan’s new President Ashraf Ghani. Updating foreign media persons at the Foreign Press Center here about the bilateral talks of President Ghani with top US leadership, Daniel Feldman, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan said, “There were conversations about regional dynamics given President Ghani’s outreach to the region, his visit to China, his visit to the Gulf, his visit to Central Asia, likely an upcoming visit to Delhi quite soon.” Feldman was addressing journalists, along with Larry Sampler, USAID Assistant to the Administration for the office of Afghanistan and Pakistan affairs.

Afghan Chief Executive Officer Dr Abdullah Abdullah later confirmed the trip at a news conference here saying, “President Ghani would be visiting India towards the end of April. This would be an opportunity, if there are concerns, to address it. I was in India, just a few days ago. They (Indians) understand that the foundations of relationship between the two countries are very solid. India wants a stable Afghanistan.”

“Relationship between India and Afghanistan has been a solid one. India is the fifth top donor country for Afghanistan. They have given more than $ 2 billion in assistance,” Abdullah said.

He said that India has been helping Afghanistan in many ways, towards stabilization and also meeting its developmental needs. Responding to questions on India’s reaction to the recent Afghan move to improve ties with Pakistan, Abdullah said, “Any situation that would lead to stabilization of Afghanistan and clamp down on terrorists, they would welcome it. When they would see that things are moving in that direction as a result of our interaction with Pakistan, I do not think they would oppose it.”

Feldman earlier refused to divulge details about the mention of India in bilateral talks with Afghanistan saying, “It wouldn’t be for us to have a discussion about India’s role in bilateral meetings. The conversations were overwhelmingly focused on our bilateral relationship and our – on the narrative of our bilateral relationship and what we can continue to do bilaterally, both the U.S. for Afghanistan and Afghanistan to demonstrate that they will continue to be a credible and long-term partner.”

On the other hand, Feldman highlighted the betterment of relations between Kabul and Islamabad. Asked to comment on the subject, Feldman said, “The growing relationship through many different channels between Afghanistan and Pakistan – economically and trade, and through diplomatic ties, through cross-border military issues, on counterterrorism. And hopefully at some point it will produce something on the reconciliation process as well.”

Feldman gave Pakistan credit for improvement in the relationship. “I do think that there is a sincere effort being made by Pakistan at this point to take advantage of this new environment and a recognition that long-term stability on their border is in their interest and that they have a role to play in trying to ensure that there is a peaceful resolution to this process,” Feldman said.

“We will have to see what occurs, but in my conversations with civilian, military and intelligence leadership in Pakistan, I think, that there is an opportunity here that hasn’t been here in the past.”

“The role of other neighbors and near neighbors was one of the key reasons why the regional architecture was so important to have the opportunities to build linkages in the region,” he said, stressing trade, transit, people-to-people contacts, investment, diplomatic and counterterrorism efforts.

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