"I don't think that there's any near-term danger of foreign fighters shifting from Afghanistan to the border with India. Among other things because, unfortunately, the war in Afghanistan isn't over," Special US Representatives for Afghanistan and Pakistan James Dobbins said Dec. 12. "But the Indian concerns are legitimate and it's something that we do need to be careful about," he said in response to a question at a Congressional hearing on Afghanistan convened by the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Describing the efforts of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to improve ties with India as "sincere", Dobbins acknowledged the concerns of New Delhi given its past experience with Islamabad.
"In Pakistan, traditionally the security sphere has been left largely to the military, and they've been largely free of civilian oversight or control. The last time Nawaz Sharif tried to exercise that kind of control, he was overthrown by General (Pervez) Musharraf. So he has to be careful about how quickly he moves to assert civilian control of the military and a stronger civilian role in designing and implementing Pakistan's national security policy," he said. "I think he (Sharif) has expressed himself, very clearly, that Pakistan can't be secure unless - Afghanistan is at peace and relations with India are improved. And he's tried to move in both directions. I think the Indian government takes him at face value and believes he's sincere. They're a little skeptical that he will prevail in exercising enough influence over the Pakistani military," Dobbins said.
"I met with the Indian Foreign Secretary on this, for instance. President (Hamid) Karzai is visiting India later this week for a state visit, in fact," he said. "India has a significant aid program and significant investments, probably the greatest contribution India could make and Pakistan can make in Afghanistan is improving their bilateral relationship," he added.
"Improved relationships between India and Pakistan will have two effects on Afghanistan. One effect is it will greatly increase the access of Afghan trade to India via Pakistan. But secondly and equally important, it will reduce the competition between the two countries for influence in Afghanistan in a way that's often proved highly destabilizing," he argued. "So we've been encouraging both Pakistan and India to overcome their differences in Kashmir, their differences over Afghanistan," Dobbins added. (PTI)