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If NATO wants to Broaden the War Theatre does it have the body bags?

October 1, 2010 Leave a comment

If NATO wants to Broaden the War Theatre does it have the body bags?

  • At least 27 tankers carrying fuel for NATO forces in Afghanistan were destroyed at a fuel station in southern Pakistan, an official said Friday.
  • It was unclear whether the attack was linked to a NATO airstrike Thursday at a border post in Khurram Agency along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in which three Pakistani troops died, the BBC said.
  • Pakistan has formally lodged protest with NATO over airstrikes in its tribal region, which Thursday also killed three soldiers, officials said on Friday.
  • “Ambassador Jalil Abbas Jilani met the Deputy Secretary General of NATO in Brussels to lodge protest over the border violations by NATO/ISAF helicopters,” Pakistani Embassy in Brussels said.
  • Most people in Pakistan’s tribal regions strongly oppose U.S. missile strikes in their territory, with nearly half believing they kill mainly civilians, according to a rare opinion poll that may raise doubts about a key plank of the Obama administration’s anti-terror strategy.
  • Nearly nine of 10 people surveyed opposed the U.S. taking action against militants in the tribal belt.

Following the unwarranted missile firing by two NATO helicopters on Pakistani army posts in Kurram agency Waziristan, the situation has taken a very ugly and ominous turn. In what they claim as hot pursuit option of the militants, the NATO air force has arrogated itself the right to target even the Pakistani soldiers fighting on Pakistani soil in what ostensibly is NATO and American war.

While this is outright an egregious provocation, it lends a new grave dimension to the anti terrorism alliance between Pakistan and America a new bizarre twist. For Pakistan, there are two choices. She should either bear with this disgrace and willingly agree to be killed and come under wanton aerial bombing by the chasing NATO bombers or retaliate in a befitting manner. Being a world class and one of the finest armies, it would be difficult for Pakistan army command to swallow this insult and affront that could be repeated time and again.

The second course would be to withdraw, the Pakistan army from the embattled frontier and tribal regions to allow the NATO troops to deal with the insurgents directly. It is important to do so because NATO and particularly America is bent upon dealing severe blows to the insurgents and Taliban no matter it amounts to grave and naked violation of the territorial integrity of a country which is rendering huge sacrifices by fighting a proxy war for the foreign occupation forces stationed in Afghanistan. It is highly improbable that if NATO cannot succeed in a limited area of Afghanistan, how it can cope with a larger terrain.

Yet it clearly demonstrates that America and NATO are embracing a new strategy in their war again the militants in which the demarcation of boundaries and sanctity of the land do not hold any prominence. By that token, it would not be naïve to speculate that if the border regions of Pakistan can be bombed and intruded either by land or by air, the remaining territory of Pakistan can also be treated as a war zone for chasing the miscreants because there is every possibility of fleeing Taliban to spread across the land of Pakistan. Thus, they can also launch their forays against the NATO forces and retreat to save havens and sanctuaries interspersed all over Pakistan.

This overly alarming development has the seeds of pitting the two allies against each other. The Pakistan army’s top brass must be emergently seized of the freakish and sinister turn of the events and the changing paradigm of fighting and the latest tactics of the NATO forces for counter-terrorism. Hopefully, Pakistan army’s command would be able to persuade the NATO commanders not to indulge in such insane violations,, highly questionable conduct and desperate maneuvers that can deal a fatal blow to the cooperation between Pakistan and NATO in combating terrorism.

While Pakistan army would be mulling over the next step and is believed to be in consultation, it is laudable that the NATO supplies have been suspended by Pakistan as retaliation to this fiasco.

If NAT O does not have the requisite intelligence that can differentiate between friends and foes and militants and the Pakistan army personnel, then this negligence assumed very intriguing dimensions. In the future too, every time the NATO bombers can cross over to Pakistan’s territory, indiscriminately shell the Pakistani soldiers, and then justify it as an act of self-defense. The logic of self-defense is tenable if Pakistan forces infiltrate all the way into the Afghan territory and attack the NATO troops. This is not self-defense and there is no precedent that you can trespass the terrain of a friendly country without giving prior information based on proper and credible intelligence.

The hamstrung government run by the spineless and titular rulers in Pakistan does not have enough courage and dignity to order shooting down the intruding aircrafts or helicopter gunships. If the invaders do not observe any rules of the game then why should Pakistan be imposed with an explanation which is downright audacious, unconvincing and an open declaration for doing such violations even for the future.

The crossing of the international borders and firing upon an outpost of the Frontier Corps located 200 meters (650 feet) inside Pakistan is either a sign of desperation or willful attempt to give the message that NATO can extend its operations to the Pakistani territory. According to a Pakistan army spokesperson, Troops present at the post manned by six soldiers “retaliated through rifle fire to indicate that the helicopters were crossing into our territory,”. “Instead of heading to the warning, helicopters went to fire two missiles, destroying the post. As a result, three FC soldiers embraced shahadat (martyrdom) and three have been injured.”

These patently provocative actions would erode whatever the support and sympathy America and her NATO allies have at the moment in the tribal regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Perhaps as a retaliation that brazen misadventure by the NATO gunships, the NATO containers were torched at Shiakpur Pakistan emanating a clear yet a portentous message that if such acts are repeated these can have their detrimental reactions in Pakistan’s mainland and perhaps elsewhere.

If United States thinks that the Pakistan’s territory should also be envisaged as the war theatre, a scenario that can prompt Pakistan to withdraw her troops from these war areas to leave the embattled terrain open to NATO and the insurgents, then it can be a good riddance by Pakistan army, fighting under duress. Or else Pakistan army can shoot down the intruding gunships, fight the land troops if these enter Pakistan’s territory and drive away or bring down drones by firing missiles at them.

This very horrendous projected situation neither suits Pakistan nor NATO and America. It would be, therefore, better if NATO leaves the military operations in the Pakistan’s territory to Pakistan army. They can continue focusing on Afghanistan as they are doing now. Pakistan indeed is a scapegoat in this so-called war against terrorism but there is a limit to find faults with such a trustworthy, competent, and brave ally as the Pakistan army is. October 1, 2010, Upright Opinion, Does NATO want to Broaden the War Theatre? By Saeed Qureshi.

(The writer is a freelance journalist and a former diplomat writing mostly on International Affairs with specific focus on Pakistan and the United States)

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  • President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday said that the Government of Pakistan strongly disapproves any incident of violation of its sovereignty and any violation of internationally agreed principles was counter-productiveand unacceptable.
  • The president made these remarks during a meeting with CIA Director Leon Panetta, who called on him at the Aiwan-e-Sadr on Thursday.
  • Panetta also separately met Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani at the PM House and the General Headquarters respectively.
  • Gunmen in southern Pakistan on Friday torched more than two dozen trucks and tankers carrying supplies for Nato forces in Afghanistan, police said.
  • Attacks on trucks carrying goods for US and Nato-led forces are routine.
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Pak Army dismisses reports of Europe plots

September 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Editor’s note: Time and again, the western media keeps dragging Pakistan into matters that are speculative and most probably hoaxes. News of terrorism/plots of terrorism always tend to make headlines in any country. By labelling it as “Pakistan-based terror”, it seems some added credit points are awarded to the channel that reports it first – despite there being no evidence of any such threats. As to why the Indian and Western media has become so Pakistan-centric in the recent past is ofcourse not beyond comprehension. The US and its coalition (including India) are facing a hard time in Afghanistan, and now they’re trying to force the “Af & Pak” region into civil war so that they can have an honourable exit, blaming it on both the countries, by labelling them as “terrorists” or “rogue states”. Unfortunately for the Pentagon however, the situation is being rubbed in their face by their constant failure in Afghanistan.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s army on Wednesday dismissed as “very speculative” media reports that this month’s  upsurge in US drone strikes on Islamist militants in the country’s northwest sought to disrupt attacks on European cities.

Sky News on Tuesday reported that militants based in Pakistan were planning simultaneous strikes in London akin to the 2008 militant assault on Mumbai as well as attacks on cities in France and Germany.

It said a month of strikes by pilotless drone aircraft focused on Pakistan’s North Waziristan region, in which more than 100 militants were killed, was intended to disrupt the plot.

Pakistani military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told Reuters: “We don’t have any information or intelligence that militants had gathered there (in North Waziristan) and were plotting attacks. There is absolutely no intelligence on that.”

“Basically it’s very speculative,” he said of the Sky News report. “It’s a very speculative story. It does not quote any credible source.”

US security officials said they could not confirm that a plot had been disrupted. But they said they believed that the threat of a plot or plots remained.

While no senior-ranking militants were reported killed, Pakistani intelligence officials say a number of others of different nationalities are believed to have died.

On Sept 26, a senior al Qaeda leader, identified as Shaikh al-Fateh, also known as Shaikh Fateh al-Masri, was believed to have been killed, Pakistani intelligence officials said.

‘Not surprised at surge’

There have been 21 strikes carried out by the remotely piloted drones in September, the highest number in a single month.

Tehrik e Taliban(TTP) has made several threats against American and European targets, but has so far failed to carry out any overseas attacks.

US counter-terrorism agencies are poring over intelligence reports suggesting a major attack plot is currently in the works against unspecified targets in Western Europe or possibly the United States, US security officials said.

Four US security officials, who asked for anonymity, said that initial intelligence reports about the threat first surfaced two weeks ago, around the time of the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

British security sources declined to comment on the Sky News report. Britain in January raised its international terrorism threat level to “severe” — the second highest level in the five-tier system.

In Germany, the interior ministry said that while Berlin had information on the alleged plots, there were no firm signs of an imminent attack.

“The current pointers do not warrant a change in the assessment of the danger level,” the ministry said in a statement.

A serious risk of attack

The head of Britain’s MI5 Security Service, Jonathan Evans, said on Sept. 16 there remained “a serious risk of a lethal attack taking place”.

“As we have repeatedly said, we know al Qaeda wants to attack Europe and the United States. We continue to work closely with our European allies on the threat from international terrorism, including al Qaeda,” US intelligence chief James Clapper said in a statement.

One US official said militants in Pakistan were “constantly” planning attacks in the region and beyond, and the United States would react to that.

“It shouldn’t surprise anyone that links between plots and those who are orchestrating them lead to decisive American action. The terrorists who are involved are, as everyone should expect, going to be targets. That’s the whole point of all of this,” the official said.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/56186/pakistan-army-dismisses-reports-of-europe-plots/

Pakistan blocks supply trucks after three Pakistani soldiers killed in NATO Helicopter attack

September 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Pakistan has blocked NATO supply trucks passing through its territory after atleast 3 Pakistani soldiers were killed when a NATO Helicopter targeted a security chekpost in Kurram Agency, near the Pak-Afghan border.

Pakistani government officials said senior authorities had ordered them to block oil tankers and trucks carrying Nato supplies at a checkpoint bordering Afghanistan. The two officials said they were not told the reason for the order at the Torkham border post, but it comes after threats by Pakistani officials to stop providing protection to Nato convoys if the military alliance’s helicopters hit Pakistani targets again.

A NATO helicopter attacked a Pakistani security post near the Afghan border on Thursday, killing three troops, officials in Pakistan said. NATO said it was investigating the allegations and whether they were linked to an operation against insurgents in a nearby Afghan province.

The incident was likely to fray ties between Pakistan and US-led forces in Afghanistan at a crucial time in the nine-year war. Just last weekend, NATO choppers opened fire on targets across the border, killing several alleged insurgents inside Pakistan.

Islamabad protested the incidents, which have further stirred already pervasive anti-American sentiments among Pakistanis.

Shortly after the allegations emerged, two government officials told The Associated Press they were ordered to stop NATO supply trucks from crossing into Afghanistan at the Torkham border post, a major passageway for NATO materials. Earlier this week, Pakistan threatened to stop providing protection to NATO convoys if the military alliance’s choppers attacked targets inside Pakistan again.

Pakistani officials differed on the exact location of the deadly airstrike, saying it took place either in Upper Kurram or Upper Orakzai. The remote, mountainous tribal regions neighbor one another, and the border is hard to distinguish.

The dead men were from a paramilitary force tasked with safeguarding the border, the Pakistani security officials said. Their bodies were taken to the region’s largest town of Parachinar, one official said. Three troops also were wounded.

The Pakistani officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation and because in some cases they were not authorized to release the information to the media.

Lt. Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for intelligence and special operations at NATO headquarters in Kabul, said coalition forces observed early Thursday what they believed were insurgents firing mortars at a coalition base in Dand Wa Patan district of Paktia province in eastern Afghanistan.

“A coalition air weapons team called for fire support and engaged the insurgents,” he said. “The air weapons team reported that it did not cross into Pakistani air space and believed the insurgents were located on the Afghan side of the border.”

Dorrian said NATO was reviewing the reports to see if the operation in Paktia was related to Pakistan’s reports its forces were hit by NATO aircraft.

In June 2008, a U.S. airstrike killed 11 Pakistani troops and frayed the two nations’ ties. Pakistan said the soldiers died when U.S. aircraft bombed their border post in the Mohmand tribal region. U.S. officials said their coalition’s aircraft dropped bombs during a clash with militants. They expressed regret over the incident, but said it was justified.

Pakistan and the U.S. have a complicated relationship, with distrust on both sides.

Polls show many Pakistanis regard the United States as an enemy, and conspiracy theories abound of U.S. troops wanting to attack Pakistan and take over its nuclear weapons. The Pakistani government has to balance its support for the U.S. war in Afghanistan with the support it needs from the population.

The U.S. and NATO need Pakistan’s cooperation in part because they use its land routes to transport supplies to their troops inside landlocked Afghanistan. The Pakistani government officials said about 250 vehicles of NATO supplies cross into Afghanistan daily.

There were more than 100 NATO vehicles blocked at the checkpoint by Thursday morning, they said.

COAS visits flood-hit areas

September 15, 2010 Leave a comment

Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani visited the flood affected areas of Sindh and Balochistan on Monday.

According to ISPR press release here, COAS flew over the flood affected areas of Sindh including Manchar Lake and stopped over at Thatta where he visited Saudi and Chinese hospitals established for the flood affectees. He also went to Tori Bund, near Pano Aqil, and witnessed repair of the Bund by Frontier Works Organization.

Later, he visited Turkish hospital and flood relief camp being run by the Army at Dera Murad Jamali. COAS interacted informally with the troops involved in the flood relief activities and appreciated their role in providing relief to the affectees. He also thanked friendly countries for their support.

Kayani, a man for many seasons

PKKH

Shuja Nawaz

In a timely though perhaps overly dramatic move, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani of Pakistan announced recently on national television the extension of army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani for another three years beyond November this year, when his first term was to end. Timely, since any further delay in announcing it would have led to further speculation and confusion about what was to happen. Dramatic, since the normal manner would have been a press release from the Inter Services Relations Directorate.

But then this is Pakistan and anything to do with the army chief makes headlines. And this announcement further strengthens the view that the army continues to be a key player even as democracy struggles to establish itself in a country that has been ruled for more than half its life by the military.

This is the first time a civilian government has extended an army chief for a full term. In the past, extensions have been either short, given by military rulers to themselves or, in the case of the first military ruler, Ayub Khan, to an ineffectual army chief with no independent power base. Benazir Bhutto sought to break with tradition when she offered an extension to General Abdul Waheed in 1996 but he refused it. Kayani took pains to convey the impression that he would not seek an extension nor negotiate for one. It appears that the government made him an offer he could not refuse.

Kayani is widely regarded as a quiet, professional soldier, who has helped transform the army in his tenure from a largely conventional force to one that is effectively fighting an irregular war inside its own borders. His new tenure gives him a rare opportunity to continue the transformation of the Pakistan into army into a professional body ready to fight insurgencies and conventional enemies equally well. He maintains a low public profile and is seen as a thinking general. Compared with his predecessor, General Pervez Musharraf, who was tempestuous and rarely had time to read, Kayani is deliberate. From the outset, he stated a policy of keeping the army out of politics, a policy that he tried to maintain even while selectively intervening in political squabbles as a referee. In recent months he has played a key role in moving the United States-Pakistan strategic dialogue onto a higher plane in terms of content and action.

While many inside and outside the country have welcomed the move as providing continuity and stability at a time of a raging insurgency and the rise of militancy inside Pakistan, others view it as a retrogressive move away from institutionalizing the selection and promotion system by linking it to personalities. Above all, it is a political move since the final decision was made by a politician. The United States has studiously avoided taking a public position but conversations with U.S. diplomats and military officials over the past few months indicated their deep interest in the future of General Kayani and a noticeable desire to see him remain at the helm of affairs in Pakistan. Yet Kayani on his part has showed no signs that he is or even is willing to be painted as “America’s choice.”

What are the implications of this extension? In the near term, it opens up the possibility of a routine promotion for the next senior most army general to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee when that position falls vacant in October 2010. There may well be an opportunity also to elevate one of the other service chiefs, from the air force or navy, to bolster inter-service cohesion. Within the army there has been some talk of a Vice Chief. This may make sense for such a large army but runs against the grain, since the Pakistan army has a steep pyramid structure. Authority rests in one man: the chief. When I suggested to my own brother, General Asif Nawaz, when he took over as Army chief in 1991 that he appoint a deputy chief to help manage the administrative details of his work, his reply was crisp: “Command is indivisible!” While not supported by historical evidence, this mantra has taken hold in Pakistan and was echoed by General Pervez Musharraf for different and perhaps political reasons, even though he appointed a Vice Chief of the Army Staff. But Musharraf made all the important decisions himself.

In the longer run, the career paths of many senior generals will be affected by this decision. Nearly a dozen operational three-stars (Lieutenant Generals) will retire before Kayani’s new term expires in November 2013. These include a number of very bright and highly trained officers whom he has promoted to three star rank in April this year. As a result, the age and service gap between Kayani and his corps commanders in another two years will be quite large, as he digs down into the ranks order to promote new commanders. The nature and quality of the exchanges between him and his commanders will necessarily be affected, as was the case for General Zia ul-Haq and General Musharraf before him. Few junior officers will be willing to challenge the views of such a senior chief. Yet, he has exhibited a certain collegiality in his exchanges with fellow officers. If he can maintain that approach it will serve him in good stead. Politically, the country will of necessity see another election during Kayani’s extended term, unless things deteriorate so dramatically internally or in relations with Pakistan’s fractious neighbors that the army, under public pressure, mounts another coup. Here, Kayani will fight against historical precedent: in the past, an extension or the dismissal of a chief and replacement by a new chief invariably led to a coup, as mutual suspicions between the civilians and the military was compounded.

A positive spin-off from the extension in the eyes of some may be that a slew of Musharraf promotees will also retire between now and 2013 reducing the tension between them and others vying for the next rung. Some of these are strong professional officers but the taint of having been favored by Musharraf may remain. After all, Kayani too was a Musharraf choice. A major advantage that might accrue is that the certainty provided by the new term for the army chief will allow the civilian government to become confident in asserting itself in policy matters, knowing that the army chief will not overtly intervene in its affairs. This may help strengthen political institutions. At the same time, civilians must resist the temptation to turn to the army to lead the battle against militancy (a national endeavor not purely a military one) or to arbitrate differences on the political field.

These three years should also give Kayani time to assess the present Higher Defense Organization of Pakistan and perhaps come up with a more devolved structure for the army and a better system of command and control at the center. One possible scenario may include regional and centralized commands at four-star rank, appointed by the same authority who selects the service chiefs, and a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs with real powers to regulate all the services while acting as the main military advisor of the government. This approach has been taken by the United States and many other modern militaries, so it would hardly be unprecedented. Without having a stake in the chairman’s position in 2013, Kayani may be able to provide a dispassionate plan for the government to decide, well in advance of the next round of promotions in 2013. Any proposal that he presents as a disinterested party will have credibility and will also help override the parochial concerns of the army relative to the other services in Pakistan.

All this will be against the backdrop of Pakistan’s traditional rivalry with emerging superpower India to the east. Kayani would be key to any effort to reduce hostility and to open the eastern border to trade and traffic. He has already played a role in opening up to Afghanistan and perhaps positioning Pakistan to play a role in the reconciliation efforts of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The United States, as a key ally, must also understand that the army chief in Pakistan will think foremost about Pakistan’s interests. To the extent that they have an interlocutor who knows them well, from his extensive U.S. training and contacts, the U.S. will benefit from a clear dialogue. Removing years of mistrust will take a major and longer-term effort. Officer exchanges will help. But most important will be steady provision of the best possible equipment to the Pakistani forces in their battle against insurgents and militants, with no underlying threats or overhanging waivers accompanying those transfers. That is what trust means.

Key to this entire enterprise is the man who will continue to head the Pakistan army beyond President Barack Obama’s first term and into the term of the next elected government in Pakistan: General Kayani, truly now a man for many seasons.

Shuja Nawaz is Director of the South Asia Center of the Atlantic Council.

Turkey Excited with State-of-the-art Pak JF-17 Thunder

ISLAMABAD – Turkish President Abdullah Gul has shown keen interest in Pakistan’s JF-17 Thunder aircraft, a multi-role combat aircraft equipped with the state-of-the-art technology and is manufactured according to the present day defence requirements.

Turkish President made these remarks in a meeting with a Pakistani defence delegation, led by Pakistan’s Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar who called on him, revealed a Defence Ministry handout issued here on Wednesday. President Gul also emphasised the need for initiating joint defence production projects between Pakistan and Turkey.

He said that the existing strategic partnership between Pakistan and Turkey provided an opportunity for the joint ventures among the defence production organs of the defence forces of Pakistan and Turkey.

Referring to the unprecedented economic growth that Turkey has been achieving over the last couple of years, Turkish President said “we want the same type of economic development in Pakistan also and are prepared to help our brotherly country in every possible manner.”

Turkish President said he was personally motivating the Turkish investors to invest in Pakistan’s energy sector, adding that Pakistan’s coal reserves were third largest in the world and production of electricity from coal would be a viable project for the overseas investors, he maintained.

The President also desired to expedite work on the US$ 20 billion railway project that would connect Pakistan with European market through Istanbul.

Ch Ahmed Mukhtar thanked the Turkish President for personally monitoring Turkish investors’ projects in Pakistan. He appreciated the level of hospitality extended to his delegation and hoped that the brotherly relations between Pakistan and Turkey would be further enhanced in every field. Turkish Minister for National Defence Mr Vecdi Gonul and Pakistan’s Ambassador to Turkey Mr. Tariq Azizuddin were also present in the meeting.

India stand alone in opposing Pan-Afghan solution

July 12, 2010 1 comment

Bharat (aka India) stands alone in opposing the Pan-Afghan reconciliation solution in Afghanistan. It is trying to reverse the Afghan Jirga’s desire to make peace among Afghans. Delhi is also attempting to reverse the US and UK sponsored London conference which approved the recommendations of all the neighbors of Afghanistan (Istanbul Conference) for a move to reconcile all the diverse elements in Afghanistan. Earlier still Iran, and Pakistan had agreed to the Afghan proposal for reconciliation and peace.

Bharat today wants to bifurcate Afghanistan along ethnic lines because it thinks it has sway over Mr. Adbullah Abdullah a Tajik (though his mother was Pakhtun–he cannot speak proper Pushto or Darri). The Bharati plan is to stand in front of the steam roller and try to stop a train which has left the station. Delhi is attempting to thwart the peace plans because of it paranoia about Pakistan. Islamabad is simply facilitating the peace process that has been agreed upon by all the parties. Some recalcitrant opposition figures are smelling victory and may have to be brought to the table kicking and screaming. Others have to be cajoled. Some have to be dealt with. Pakistan is helping the US with a face saving exit. Delhi wants to colonize Afghanistan and thinks of Curzon and his policies as the natural boundary of Greater Bharat.

Sify News reports that Mr. Krishna is now attempting to reverse the tide of history and somehow put the genie back i the bottle. Bharat does not have a foreign policy, it has a plan to disrupt peace, partition Afghanistan and continue the war forever.

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna will represent India at the July 20 conference of international donors in Kabul that will review reconciliation moves between the Hamid Karzai regime and the Taliban, a cause of anxiety for New Delhi.Krishna goes to Kabul shortly after his July 14-16 trip to Islamabad for the foreign ministers-level talks aimed at reviving dialogue between India and Pakistan.

The focus of the first Kabul-hosted international conference on Afghanistan will be on finding Afghan solutions to the dragging conflict against the Taliban, officials have said.

More than 70 countries are expected to send their representatives for the conference where the Karzai government will seek help to bolster governance and national stability.

The conference will also take up the contentious proposal of reconciliation and reintegration of the Taliban, a move backed by the earlier London conference and endorsed by the peace jirga.

India has reiterated its concerns many a time about the reintegration proposal as it fears it may end up propping up anti-India Taliban elements back in the saddle in a power-sharing arrangement in Kabul.

Pakistan’s intensified efforts to influence power-sharing negotiations in Afghanistan has added to New Delhi’s worries, specially in view of the July 2011 deadline for withdrawal of US forces from that country.

India has followed closely reports of a recent meeting between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Al Qaeda-linked militant commander Sirajuddin Haqqani.

The meeting was allegedly arranged by Pakistan’s Army Chief Ashfaq Pervez Kayani.

According to a report by Al-Jazeera, Karzai met Haqqani along with Kayani and Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Ahmad Shuja Pasha in Kabul for ‘face-to-face talks’. Both Kabul and Islamabad have denied these reports.

Kayani and Pasha, according to sources, tried to influence Karzai to accommodate the Pakistan-backed Haqqani network which has targeted Indian assets in Afghanistan.

India conveyed its unease about the Taliban power-sharing deal when Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Eklil Ahmad Hamiki came to New Delhi this week. Amid Pakistani moves, Krishna to attend Kabul meet 2010-07-10 17:10:00

Delhi is well advised to take care of its problems in Kashmir, Assam, and 40% of the territory which is controlled by the Naxals. Its attempt to cross NATO, ISAF, the US, and the world will cost it dearly in terms of diplomatic jilting and scorn–already seen in Washington, London and Beijing.