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'NATO powers want high-profile role for India in Afghan'

January 26, 2010 21:41 IST

Efforts are on to persuade India to undertake a more high-profile role in embattled Afghanistan as India's external affairs minister arrives in London on Tuesday to participate in the one-day meet on Afghanistan.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown who has taken the initiative for the conference on Thursday said, "I believe that the neighbours of Afghanistan should come together to help sustain an infant democracy like Afghanistan. India has a big role to play."

Although details of the proposals are being kept under wraps, and Islamabad has already opposed involving New Delhi, commentators and strategic experts said the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation powers were looking increasingly at India for fresh ideas to resolve the Afghan crisis.

Indian Foreign Minister S M Krishna will meet the British Foreign Secretary David Miliband on Wednesday morning and the Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith in the afternoon.

The continued attack on Indian students in Australia will figure in the talks with Smith.

"The road to success for NATO's strategy runs through India," wrote a commentator in The Spectator, a respected British magazine that supports the opposition Conservative

Party.

Taking a non-partisan view of Miliband's proposal for the regional council, the Spectator said India's help was needed to offset Pakistani support for Afghan Taliban groups.

"Miliband's idea deserves all the support it can get," it said.

A recent poll conducted for western broadcasters ABC News, BBC and the German ARD by the Afghan Centre for Socio-Economic and Opinion Research showed that ordinary Afghans view India more positively than any other country.

In spite of its low profile role, as many as 29 percent of Afghans had a "very favourable opinion" of India, compared to only two percent for Pakistan, seven percent for Britain, eight percent for the US, 17 percent for Germany and 18 percent for Iran.

"There is no doubt that India has a very strong bilateral relationship with Afghanistan, building everything from toilets to transmission lines as the Afghans love to say," said Rahul Roy-Chaudhury, a leading London-based expert on South Asia.

"The question is whether India is ready to move from a bilateral to a multilateral relationship with Afghanistan," he said.
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