India to press for integrated Afghan approach at Moscow meet


New Delhi : India will press for a multilateral approach to peace and stability in Afghanistan and voice its opposition to involving a section of the Taliban in any power-sharing arrangement at a regional security conference in Moscow Friday.

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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Special Envoy Satinder Lambah will represent India at the conference organised by the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Moscow that will focus on exploring different ways to promote stability in that country.

This will be the first conference of its kind bringing India, Iran and Russia to craft an integrated approach to rescue Afghanistan from the Taliban and promote development and reconstruction in that country. New Delhi believes there are no ‘good Taliban’ or ‘bad Taliban’ and thinks such distinctions will only provide more space to the Pakistan-backed militants to regroup and target India.

India, along with Iran and Pakistan, have observer status at the SCO.

The Indian envoy will also express New Delhi’s opposition to the speculated US strategy of roping in what they call the ‘good Taliban’ to give them a stake in a future power-sharing arrangement in that country, official sources said.

New Delhi considers the ‘good Taliban’ concept a dangerous idea that may end up as a front for Pakistan’s ambitions to retain “strategic depth” in Afghanistan.

India will advocate an integrated development-centric approach that will include a more prominent role for reconstruction activities besides military and security components in creating a zone of peace in Afghanistan.

Russia, which holds the current SCO presidency, has also sent out invitations to Turkey, the Group of Eight nations, the UN, as well as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) for this important brainstorming session on Afghanistan.

The SCO meet takes place amid extensive strategic reviews of the situation in Afghanistan-Pakistan region by the US. The findings of the review are likely to be unveiled at the Nato conference by US President Barack Obama next week.

The Moscow conclave will be followed by another international conference on the future of Afghanistan at The Hague, which will be chaired by the United Nations. UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon is also expected to attend the meet.

Foreign ministers and representatives of international organisations involved in security and reconstruction operations in Afghanistan, including India and Iran, have been invited for this important conference. Lambah will also represent India at the Hague conference.

India has pledged over $1.2 billion in various reconstruction activities in Afghanistan and have made it clear that it will continue this work despite an attack on its Indian mission in Kabul in July last year.