Jan 17, 2014, 1:28 AM
News Code: 80998916
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India rejects 'exit' strategy for Afghanistan

New Delhi, Jan 16, IRNA -- Rejecting an 'exit strategy' for Afghanistan, India Thursday pitched for 'closest international support' to prevent decade-long achievements from going 'waste' in the war-torn country, where the US plans a total pull-out by this year end in absence of bilateral security agreement (BSA).

Addressing the meeting of International Contact Group (ICG) on Afghanistan-Pakistan, attended by representatives from 53 countries, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said Afghanistan was at a critical juncture and required steadfast support from the international community, pti reported.

Reiterating India's support for peace and security in Afghanistan, he said what faces that country was 'not anymore intrinsic tribal differences' of ethnic divisions but it was 'clearly terrorism and continuability of some armed opposition groups to launch attacks on innocent civilians and legitimate Afghan government'.

Asserting that the focus of the international community should be that these 'terrorist groups and inspiration and support that they get from outside Afghanistan must be curtailed and contained', Khurshid said there should not be lack of will by international community to tackle the surge of terrorism and it should not be allowed to hide behind alibis and allow the achievements of 12 years to 'go to waste' or 'slip away'.

Nothing justifies terrorism and 'closest international cooperation' was required to defeat this scourge, he said and asserted that 'India is and will remain committed to Afghanistan for all times to come, even beyond 2014 which is critical year for many.... People may have many strategies but one strategy India rejects is an exit strategy for Afghanistan.'

Later, addressing a press conference, US Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan-Pakistan Laurel Miller said the US has been consistently maintaining that the BSA should be signed promptly and that her government strongly backs the peace process in the war-ravaged country.

'Our position remains that this agreement should be signed promptly,' she said.

Laurel said delay in signing of the pact would erode the confidence of the Afghan people as well as create uncertainty among the international community.

'If the agreement is not signed promptly, we, unfortunately, will be in a position in which we will need to plan for the possibility of having no military presence in Afghanistan after 2014. That is not an outcome that we desire.

'We very strongly support peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan and there is no genuine issue between us in terms of the objective,' she said.

The US wanted the BSA to be signed before the end of 2013, but Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai refused to ink the pact asking the US to first stop the searching and bombing of Afghan houses during military operations and support meaningful talks with Taliban led by only Afghan government.

Miller also said that though Afghan President wants the US to launch the peace process and bring the Taliban to the negotiating table, it was not very easy to do so.

'Karzai has demanded in exchange for his signature on the agreement that the US deliver the Taliban to the peace table, that we create public launching of the peace talks between government of Afghanistan and Taliban.

'We would like to see public launching of the peace talks between the two parties. It is not simply the power and capability of the US to make that happen. Moreover, the Taliban publicly oppose the conclusion of the BSA,' she said.

The US official said her country has also been asking Pakistan to play a positive role in the peace process.

The Chairman of the ICG, Michel Koch, who is German government's special envoy for Afghanistan, said the signing of the US-Afghan BSA will facilitate signing of similar agreement between Afghan government and NATO.

He said ICG members welcomed the progress made by the Afghan Government in preparation for the 2014 elections, including efforts to update voter registration for the next year's Presidential and Provincial Council elections.

'They note the importance of level playing field for all candidates in the presidential election as essential for a fair contest. Contact group members reaffirmed their support for the election as essential for a fair contest,' he said.

In the meeting, Afghan Government reiterated its assurances as to guaranteeing equal access to state resources.

The Contact Group members also underscored the importance of a credible and impartial Independent Electoral Complaints Commission and the speedy establishment of its nationwide operational structure.

The members indicated their confidence in the capability of the Afghan Security Forces to ensure security for the elections.

India was represented by its Special Envoy for Afghanistan-Pakistan S K Lambah at ICG, which is the main forum for political coordination with respect to the international efforts for peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region.

Significantly, India is also hosting 'Heart of Asia' (HoA) meet tomorrow, in which Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh will represent the country.

The HoA is part of the 'Istanbul Process' which aims at achieving lasting stability and prosperity, anchored in a regional environment that was stable, economically integrated and conducive to shared prosperity.