Sydney, Apr 12 : Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has said that a greater effort from Pakistan to control the Taliban in its border region was as important to winning the battle in Afghanistan as a proper military and civilian strategy.
He reportedly said this at a meeting he had with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf in southern China, last evening.
By "greater effort" he meant that Islamabad should do something concrete to check the help which the Taliban was getting from tribal areas in Pakistan.
Rudd said that he believes getting Pakistan to do more to arrest the spread of Taliban forces in remote areas of the country was equally important. "For me, this is as important as is the domestic military and civilian strategy we pursue in Afghanistan itself, particularly given we have more than 1000 Australian troops whose lives are on the line,'' The Australian quoted Kevin as saying.
He added: "Half of the challenge lies in what's happening domestically within Afghanistan itself and the other half lies in whether, in fact, the Taliban and al-Qaeda are obtaining any form of safe haven across the border and what is being done about that."
At the meeting, Australia and Pakistan also agreed to continue discussing the issue through diplomatic channels. Rudd said: "We want to sustain a high-level dialogue with President Musharraf and we propose to do that through our representatives in Islamabad."
On the occasion, Rudd also met Pakistan's new defence and foreign ministers, who are from the new coalition government. "I was keen ... to establish contact with those ministers because they represent a party which has not been in government for a long, long time. Because it is a newly formed government, we intend to intensify our diplomatic and political engagement with Afghanistan," he added.
Earlier, before meeting Musharraf, Rudd said that Pakistan had on many levels since 9/11 co-operated significantly in Afghanistan. "However, that co-operation, particularly on the question of the cross-border flow of Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives, could be significantly enhanced. I'm concerned at the extent to which ... in recent months that co-operation has become less than it could otherwise be."
Rudd stressed that this was not a black-or-white situation. There had been a significant contribution by Pakistan over time, he said, "but we believe that in recent times it could have been more".