19 October 2001

India wary of Pak plans for Afghanistan

19 October 2001
The Times of India

India wary of Pak plans for Afghanistan


NEW DELHI: Even as India, Pakistan and the US pay lip-service to the idea
that it is for the Afghan people themselves to decide the nature and
composition of their government, it is clear that all three countries are
doing their level best to determine the political contours of a
post-Taliban Afghanistan.

New Delhi which has invested considerable political capital and money in
the Northern Alliance and would be happiest to see President Burhanuddin
Rabbani back in Kabul believes Pakistan has begun a three-pronged
strategy to ensure it retains significant influence once the Taliban are

Given the bitter enmity between Islamabad and the Northern Alliance,
Pakistan has convinced the US to involve retired or defunct Pak-based
Pashtun factions in any national government. This idea is being sold under
the guise of ensuring the new government has a proper ethnic composition.

Secondly, say Indian officials, Pakistan is encouraging provincial Taliban
leaders to convene local shuras or councils which in turn are nominating
representatives for any government ex-king Zahir Shah might eventually
lead. We know that some of these representatives have already contacted
Zahir Shah in Rome, said a senior Indian official familiar with Pakistans
Afghan policy. Given the importance of such councils, it will be difficult
for Zahir Shah to veto these names.

Eventually, what the king will have is a large group whose role could be
dubious and counter-productive, said the official. We feel that anyone who
has to select people for the national council should study the names that
come out from these shuras very carefully.

Finally, New Delhi also sees the hand of Islamabad in the US plan to
accommodate moderate Taliban leaders. This is basically a Pakistani agenda
and the US is going along with it, said the official. With rumours
circulating about Taliban foreign minister Wakil Ahmed Mutawakil
eventually emerging as the nucleus of this moderate faction, Indian
officials who dealt with him during the hijacking of IC-814 to Kandahar
insist they saw little evidence of his moderation there. He is a gentle
and polite man but it became clear to us that he is very much a Mullah
Omar loyalist, said an official.

Indian officials say that if at all there was a moderate amongst the
Taliban, it was the late Mullah Rabbani, who died of cancer earlier this

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