The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Kabul call for pipeline deal

New Delhi, March 6: After Iran, it is Afghanistan’s turn to ask India to join a gas pipeline deal with Pakistan for the “economic benefit of all”.

President Hamid Karzai today proposed that India join the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan pipeline deal. Preliminary discussions between the three countries involved have already been held, Karzai said. “We hope for India’s participation in the proposed project.”

He was quick to emphasise he was not getting into “the politics of it”. If Karzai’s proposal, made while addressing captains of Indian Inc today, was a way of urging India to engage with Pakistan, then he concealed it well.

He, however, refrained from raising the issue during talks with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and other senior officials in the evening.

After the two countries signed a preferential trade agreement, Karzai sought enhanced Indian assistance in his country’s reconstruction. He also sought help to put together a new constitution that will be approved by the Loya Jirga next year.

During his meeting with Vajpayee and later at the full delegation talks, Karzai shared India’s concerns on terrorism, particularly the regrouping of the Taliban and al Qaida along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

Karzai was careful not to mention a word of what he shared in private with the Indian leadership on Pakistan’s role in cross-border terrorism.

The Afghan President and the Indian leadership share a common cause against cross-border terrorism from Pakistan, but their approaches differ widely.

India has taken a tough stand and refused to resume talks with Islamabad till Delhi’s security concerns are met. Karzai, however, has always emphasised on engaging with the Pervez Musharraf regime.

As part of this policy, Karzai will meet the Pakistani President in Islamabad later this month to find ways to deal with terrorists who are regrouping along their countries’ border.

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