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Indian, Afghan Leaders Meet Amid Growing Tensions Over Pakistan

Phil Ittner | Islamabad May 12, 2011

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is in Afghanistan's capital, where he met Thursday with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Singh's visit comes in the wake of the U.S. raid that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad - an event that has further intensified concerns in Kabul and New Delhi about alleged Pakistani support for terrorist groups.

The meetings between Prime Minister Singh and President Karzai touched on Afghan-Indian financial relations, security arrangements, counterterrorism and regional stability. The Indian prime minister said his country would continue to provide assistance to Afghanistan, primarily in infrastructure development. He announced a fresh commitment of $500 million over the coming years.

The two leaders said there is a need to continue fighting extremism and terrorism in the region, with Singh telling reporters that the death of Osama bin Laden provides a window of opportunity to get on the same page when it comes to anti-terrorism.

"Afghanistan, Pakistan, India recognize that this is a unique moment in the history of this region. Whereby we all should agree to work unitedly to end the scourge of terrorism," Singh said.

The fact that the world's most wanted man had been living for years in a military garrison town close to Pakistan's capital has increased suspicions in Kabul and New Delhi that Islamabad supports terrorists targeting the Indian and Afghan governments.

Still, the Indian prime minister said Pakistan should not feel threatened by India's cooperation with Afghanistan.

Responding to a reporter's question about whether the killing of Osama bin Laden might be the catalyst for a more speedy withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan, Karzai said he believes the international community will remain involved in his country. But he urged the world to shift its focus away from military operations in Afghanistan.

"The international community will continue to stay in Afghanistan and will continue to be active in Afghanistan. The only change ... is for them to recognize that this war on terror is not in Afghan homes," Karzai said.

Singh also said that India supports efforts by the Karzai government to seek reconciliation with elements of the Taliban in order to bring the lengthy war in Afghanistan to a close.

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