Washington, Feb 19 (IANS) The United States has urged India and Pakistan to support a political process in Afghanistan, saying reconciliation in Afghanistan will depend on the participation and support of its neighbours, particularly Pakistan.
“Indeed, we are encouraged by news that India and Pakistan are re-launching a dialogue aimed at building trust, and we encourage them to work in that same spirit to support a political process in Afghanistan,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday.
“We look to them – and all of Afghanistan’s neighbours – to respect Afghanistan’s sovereignty,” she said at the launch of the Asia Society’s Series of Richard C. Holbrooke Memorial Addresses in New York.
This “means agreeing not to play out their rivalries within its borders, and to support reconciliation and efforts to ensure that Al Qaeda and the syndicate of terrorism is denied safe haven everywhere,” Clinton said.
“Afghanistan, in turn, must not allow its territory to be used against others,” she said pledging to intensify US efforts to build broad international support for Afghan reconciliation.
“Reconciliation – achieving it and maintaining it – will depend on the participation and support of Afghanistan’s neighbours, including and most importantly Pakistan,” Clinton said noting the historic distrust between Pakistan and Afghanistan remains a major cause of regional instability.
Pakistan has legitimate concerns that should be understood and addressed by the Afghan Government under any reconciliation process, she said.
“But Pakistan also has responsibilities of its own, including taking decisive steps to ensure that the Afghan Taliban cannot continue to conduct the insurgency from Pakistani territory,” Clinton said suggesting pressure from the Pakistani side will help push the Taliban toward the negotiating table and away from Al Qaeda.
For reconciliation to succeed, Pakistan will have to be part of the process, she said. “It will have to respect Afghan sovereignty and work with Afghanistan to improve regional stability.”
“Beyond Pakistan, all of Afghanistan’s neighbours and near-neighbours – India and Iran, Russia and China, the Central Asian states – stand to benefit from a responsible political settlement in Afghanistan and also an end to Al Qaeda’s safe havens in the border areas and the exporting of extremism into their countries,” Clinton said.
Later in Washington State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Clinton had reinforced that the US has a regional approach to Afghanistan.
“India has an interest and is invested in Afghanistan. So is Pakistan. So are other countries in the region,” he said.