| Hamid Karzai
New Delhi, March 3: India and Afghanistan now have a common cause: cross-border terrorism from Pakistan. Although it is a serious concern for both countries, their approach to deal with it is different.
The Indian leadership has made it clear that unless Pakistan stops its hostile activities completely, Delhi will not hold talks with Islamabad.
But the Hamid Karzai regime in Kabul, which is facing regular incursions into its territory from militants across Pakistan, has decided that the best way to deal with the situation is to engage heavily with Pervez Musharraf.
After the initial hiccups —bad weather did not allow his aircraft to leave the US —Karzai has re-scheduled his visit and will arrive in Delhi on March 5 on a four-day state visit.
Karzai’s second visit to India in a year is a clear signal of how ties between the two sides are rapidly growing since the US-initiated military action ousted the Taliban regime from Kabul at the end of 2001.
His main meeting will be on March 6 with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and other senior Indian officials.
He will also meet President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and foreign minister Yashwant Sinha.
Leader of the Opposition Sonia Gandhi is expected to call on him. Karzai’s visit will give the two sides an opportunity to review bilateral ties and identify new areas of cooperation.
Karzai is also scheduled to visit Shimla on March 7 where a honorary doctorate degree is likely to be conferred on him by Himachal University.
The Pakistan issue, particularly the re-grouping of the Taliban and al Qaida along the Afghan-Pakistan border and in the tribal areas of Wzirstan, is one of the main problems the Karzai regime is facing. It will probably be one of the more important things that the two sides will discuss.
The Afghan President, however, will be extremely cautious if he has to articulate his concerns publicly in India.
One reason for this would be Karzai’s decision to win active cooperation from Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to deal with the situation.
Karzai has been in regular touch with Musharraf and the two also met on the sidelines of the Nam summit in Kuala Lumpur recently.
The Afghan President will leave for Islamabad on March 22, barely a few weeks after his visit here, for a meeting with Musharraf.