Karzai in India next week, focus on ISI’s role


New Delhi : Days after the assassination of his predecessor Burhanuddin Rabbani, Afghan President Hamid Karzai touches down here next week on a two-day visit to seek India’s support for the faltering peace efforts in his violence-torn country.

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Karzai arrives here Oct 4. He is expected to hold talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and meet External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna.

The two sides are set to discuss the fragile security situation in Afghanistan and the role of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in fomenting instability in that country.

They will also discuss the fate of the reconciliation efforts in the aftermath of the Sep 20 assassination of Rabbani, a former president who was heading the Afghan High Council that was shepherding negotiations with the Taliban.

Issues relating to expanding trade, commerce and connectivity with a view to making Afghanistan a hub for regional trade will figure in the discussions, said a reliable source.

Last week, Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmay Rassoul unveiled the so-called “New Silk Road” initiative in New York at a meeting which was attended by, among others, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Krishna. The initiative was aimed at forging closer economic ties between Afghanistan and neighbouring countries.

In New Delhi, Karzai will also deliver a lecture on the India-Afghan relations at the Observer Research Foundation, a think tank.

Karzai comes here amid the US’ growing disillusion with him to deliver on the reconciliation process and souring US-Pakistan relations which have plunged to a new low after fresh disclosures about the role of Pakistan-backed Haqqani network and ISI in attacks against Americans.

In a strong public condemnation of Pakistan, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last week that Pakistan’s ISI was actively supporting Haqqani network extremists who, he stressed, have targeted US forces in Afghanistan.

Reacting to disclosures, Manmohan Singh said Tuesday that Mullen’s remarks only vindicated what India has been saying along.

“There is now a growing awareness of the groups who indulge in these nefarious activities and we have to take notice of that,” Manmohan Singh told journalists aboard his special aircraft when asked about Mullen’s remarks.

“I’m glad that the world now recognizes the truth of what government and people of India have been saying about the activities of the ISI for many many years,” he said.