PM,Zardari discussed Afghanistan

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari are learnt to have discussed Afghanistan during their meeting,making it the first substantive discussion between the two countries at the highest level. Sources said Afghanistan was discussed under the rubric of “regional cooperation”

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi | Published: April 10, 2012 3:27 am

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari are learnt to have discussed Afghanistan during their meeting on Sunday,making it the first substantive discussion between the two countries at the highest level. Sources said Afghanistan was discussed under the rubric of “regional cooperation”.

While details of the conversation,which took place without note-takers,are not being disclosed,the talks in the context of “regional cooperation” takes a much larger meaning,sources said.

New Delhi and Islamabad have found talking about Afghanistan difficult,though the role of both countries is increasingly becoming crucial as the withdrawal of US-led coalition troops comes closer. India is keen to have a transit route to Afghanistan through Pakistan but Pakistan is not keen to grant that facility. In the recent months,however,Pakistan did show flexibility. It allowed 100,000 tonnes of wheat for Afghanistan to be taken via Karachi and then to Torkham,the transit point at Afghanistan-Pakistan border,through road and rail routes.

In fact,Afghanistan and Pakistan have entered into a trade and transit agreement,which was not extended to India due to Islamabad’s concerns. However,it does allow Afghanistan duty-free access on a list of goods across Torkham and Chaman transit points.

Sources said that there are always “talking points” prepared on Afghanistan,whenever leaders from India and Pakistan meet. But that is usually on the issue of “development plans” which India has for the strife-torn country.

At the Istanbul conference on Afghanistan,where India was invited for the first time in November last year and was represented by External Affairs Minister S M Krishna,India said it wanted to keep its foothold as part of “regional stakeholders”.

However,Pakistan has always viewed India with suspicion about Afghanistan,and has made allegations that its activities are part of a strategic policy. But with India’s developmental role in Afghanistan getting international recognition and New Delhi making it clear about its intentions,both sides are now beginning to talk about Afghanistan.

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