DELHI BANKS ON RISING STOCK FOR KABUL ROLE 

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By FROM PRANAY SHARMA
  • Published 20.10.01
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New Delhi, Oct. 20 :    New Delhi, Oct. 20:  India feels there is growing recognition within the international community about Delhi playing an important role in post-war Afghanistan, particularly in putting in place a political structure that will select the new regime in Kabul. This was reflected when US secretary of state Colin Powell came here and discussed, among other things, the allied military operations and the possible new regime which could replace the Taliban. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who came here a week before Powell, also sought Delhi's views on post-war Afghanistan, particularly the composition of the proposed new regime. The economic and rehabilitation packages for Kabul announced by India after last night's Cabinet committee on security meeting is a clear indication that New Delhi now wants to take advantage of the situation in ensuring its views on Afghanistan are taken seriously by the world. South Block sees Powell's visit to New Delhi as an attempt to keep India in the loop of things that is taking place in its fight against terrorism. But India wasn't his primary concern; it was Pakistan. Powell visited Pakistan with three objectives. To shore up Pervez Musharraf's domestic image, to extend economic assistance to Pakistan so that it could tide over its difficulties, and to make an assessment whether a ground operation into Afghanistan can be launched from Pakistan. "It was a reverse journey to India, like the ones we saw to Pakistan from New Delhi during Bill Clinton's presidency," a senior official in South Block said. While in India, Powell's primary objective was to stop the breast-beating among the Indian public following his Kashmir remarks. At the same time, it was also to reassure the Vajpayee government that the US campaign against terrorism was not limited to Afghanistan, and that post-September 11 developments would not change Indo-US relations. But the Indian leadership draws satisfaction from the US secretary of state's attempt to find out from New Delhi what it feels should be the right political structure in post-conflict Afghanistan. This was important since reports from Islamabad indicated that Powell agreed with Musharraf's views that "moderate Taliban" elements could find a place in the new dispensation in Kabul. India is opposed to the idea and has made it clear that such a move would be opposed not only by India but also by all the key players in the region such as Russia, Iran and the Central Asian republics. India has had close links with Afghanistan for decades. It began losing touch with the Afghan people after the Soviet invasion in 1979. But the worst scenario for New Delhi emerged after the Taliban captured Kabul in 1996. Since then, Afghanistan started becoming the hotbed for Islamic fundamentalists and training ground for terrorists fighting in Kashmir. To ensure that India did not have a role in the future of Afghanistan, Pakistan insisted that New Delhi be kept out of the Six-plus-Two formulation, which includes countries sharing a border with Afghanistan and the US and Russia.