Britain Urges Pakistan To Go After Haqqani Network


New Delhi: Ahead of the Bonn conference on Afghanistan, Britain’s AfPak envoy Mark Sedwill Friday “regretted” Pakistan’s boycott of the conclave, but at the same time asked Islamabad to pressure and eliminate militant groups like the Haqqani network.

With India being increasingly seen as an important development partner of Afghanistan, Sedwill held talks with Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai and India’s special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan S.K. Lambah.

Issues relating to the Taliban reconciliation process, the imperative for eliminating cross-border terror networks and the need for a regional approach to stabilize Afghanistan were among the issues that figured in the discussions.

Talking to reporters after his meetings, Sedwill stressed that although Britain “regretted” Pakistan’s decision to boycott the Dec 5 Bonn conference, it will not affect the larger objectives of the conclave that seeks to chart out Afghanistan’s future beyond 2014, when NATO-led international troops are expected to leave the country.

”It is obviously regrettable that Pakistan is not going to Bonn. But we should not overestimate it. The larger objectives of the Bonn conference are secure,” said Sedwill.

Britain’s AfPak envoy stressed that although Britain sees Pakistan as “part of the solution in Afghanistan,” it has concerns about terror emanating from some militant groups there.

”We will like Pakistan to put pressure on the Haqqani network to either reconcile or eliminate the threat,” Sedwill replied when asked what he thought of the Haqqani network that is suspected to have targeted the embassies of India and the US.

”It’s a vicious militant group that seeks to undermine the stability of Pakistan,” he said.

He said that that the previous governments in Pakistan had supported terror, but now they are confronting it as that country is suffering heavily from home-grown terror networks.

In what may come as surprise to many, Sedwill downplayed rivalry between India and Pakistan over Afghanistan. He said he got the impression after talking to a wide swathe of civilian and military leadership in Pakistan that it was fine with New Delhi’s developmental partnership, but was not comfortable with its military involvement in Afghanistan. 

Lauding India’s developmental assistance to Afghanistan and its recent strategic pact with that country, Sedwill said Britain will like India “to underwrite Afghanistan’s future and development. We strongly welcome India’s strategic partnership pact with Afghanistan”, said Sedwill, adding that London is also in the process of signing a similar pact with Kabul.

He also endorsed India’s regional approach towards stabilizing Afghanistan, saying it was “absolutely critical.”

”A regional role is absolutely critical. It will become more important after 2014,” he said. The envoy, however, added that although there are bilateral frictions between the neighbours of Afghanistan, there is a genuine regional agreement to stabilize Afghanistan.

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