November 28, 2001
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India junks Pakistan claim on Afghan government

Ranvir Nayar in Paris

As talks for a future Afghanistan government got underway in Bonn, India mounted a diplomatic campaign in Europe rejecting Pakistan's claims for a special position in deciding the future government in Kabul.

Without naming Pakistan, Indian envoy to France, Kanwal Sibal, said terrorism could not be eliminated from Afghanistan without finishing first the network of institutions and religious schools and the official complicity of the neighbouring countries that fed it.

Speaking at a press conference, Sibal said no country should be allowed to have a special say in the formation of the post-Taleban government in Afghanistan.

President Pervez Musharraf had been saying that it was in Pakistan's national interest to have a friendly government in Kabul.

Sibal said one of the biggest problems in Afghanistan had been the prolonged external interference.

"It is very important that neighbouring countries stop interfering in the internal affairs of Afghanistan. No country should look for a hegemonic role in Afghanistan for ethnic reasons and under the cover of protecting its national interests," Sibal said.

Sibal also said these countries could not be credible allies, as the battle was against the very networks of terrorism that they had created.

"Their cooperation is tactical and short term. Their geographic position, the long term objectives and the existence of terrorist infrastructure within the country will give them the means and the appetite to renew the trouble," he said.

Sibal reiterated India's stance that the Taleban should not form part of any new government in Afghanistan. "There is no such thing as a moderate Taleban, there is no moderate extremist. The medieval ideology of the Taleban, their gross violations of human rights, especially of women, their implication in international terrorism and their open and declared support to Osama bin Laden means that they do not deserve any considerations."

Praising the Northern Alliance, Sibal said the international community should recognise its role in keeping a front against the Taleban right up to the end and for their contribution in field action.

"All things accounted for, the Northern Alliance has behaved in a responsible fashion. Yet, it is evident they cannot be and are not looking to be the sole governors of Afghanistan," he said.

He said India had a very flexible position on the new government in Afghanistan and the role to be played by former Afghan king Zahir Shah, but cautioned that the task was extremely complex and it was of utmost importance that the task of deciding the structure of the government was left to the Afghans themselves.

Indo-Asian News Service

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