Improvement in Indo-Pak ties will benefit Afghanistan: US

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'Better Indo-Pak ties will help Afghans'
New Delhi, June 27: Any improvement of ties between New Delhi and Islamabad will automatically improve the situation in Afghanistan, US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Ambassador James Dobbins said today.

Dobbins, who arrived here to brief Indian officials on the proposed talks with Taliban as part of stabilising war- torn Afghanistan, also said that there is no prospect of any agreement with Taliban unless they decide on severing ties with all terror groups, including al-Qaeda.

"We certainly agree that there is no prospect of improvement in relationship with Taliban or any agreement with Taliban unless they assure terrorism is...addressed," the US diplomat said, adding that Taliban has to do much more before an agreement is reached.

"In an agreement, they need to improve on cessation of hostilities, respectfully attend the Constitution and go about severing of all ties with al-Qaeda and similar terrorist organisations," Dobbins said.

"Any improvement in Indo-Pak ties will almost automatically improve the Afghanistan situation," he said. Dobbins added that he had gathered an impression during his two meetings with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that "improvement in relationship with India is very high on his (Sharif's) list of priority."

The US ambassador, who met Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai yesterday, will meet his Indian counterpart S K Lambah today.

The visit comes a day after US Secretary of State John Kerry's three-day official visit for the India-US Strategic Dialogue.

During the dialogue, Kerry had assured India that its concerns over Taliban insurgents gaining legitimacy without severing their terror links will not be "overlooked or undermined" during the talks with the Islamic fundamentalist group.

Maintaining that India has an important influence in Afghanistan, Dobbins said, "it is important that India understand our views and we understand India's views."

The US Ambassador had met Sharif yesterday and discussed developments in Afghanistan, including the proposed peace talks to be held in Qatar. He said said that there is certainly "no pre-condition" for the peace talks and the US does not expect that Taliban will stop hostilities just because they are talking.

"Certainly there is no pre-condition. We do not expect them to stop firing just because they are talking. The objective of the talks is the diminishing of violence and ultimately an enduring peace. But that is not going to come quickly. So there is certainly no pre-condition for just talking. Frankly, I anticipate that Taliban would continue to try and negotiate from a position of strength. They will continue to mount attacks. Probably Taliban wants the pressure to continue. They want to continue to make it look like that the US is retreating as a result of that pressure," he said in response to a query about continuance of attacks by Taliban in the recent months.

Emphasising the importance of the peace talks for a lasting peace, Dobbins noted that while the Afghan forces are leading in combat operations for some time and performing well, he did not think that it is "going to lead to an immediate diminishing of violence".

To a question about the possibilities of peace amid Taliban continuing attacks, Dobbins said, "I don't anticipate that the beginning of negotiations will end the war. I do hope that the negotiations will automatically contribute to the end of the war. But that is by no means certain. That is simply something that we are trying."

The Afghan Taliban had opened an office in Qatar last Tuesday in a step towards talks as the US-led NATO combat mission prepares to leave Afghanistan in 2014 despite a resilient Taliban insurgency 12 years after they were ousted following the 9/11 attacks.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai had reacted furiously to Taliban's portrayal of its newly opened Qatar office as the headquarters of a state-in-exile using the formal name of the "Islamic Emirate Of Afghanistan" from their hardline 1996-2001 regime.

Karzai also refused to participate in the talks. Karzai, however, agreed to attend the talks after Taliban brought down the flag and changed the name plate.

Dobbins said that the presentation of their office in Qatar was "inconsistent" with the assurance that Taliban had given to the US, but added "those issues have now been resolved" and Karzai was "content to move forward" when he met him in Kabul on Monday.

He stressed that the negotiations will principally be carried between the Afghanistan government and Taliban and not between the US and Taliban. Dobbins said that the US can contribute to negotiations once it begins and that its focus then could be on the issue of Taliban "severing ties with al-Qaeda".

"And it is one the questions that we will raise that how will they (Taliban) do that. Not just what they intend to say but the ...action...how they intend to go about severing those ties," he said.

PTI

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