The consultations of Marc Grossman, US special representative on Afghanistan, in the Pakistani capital on Thursday would set the stage for a crucial phase of the Afghan endgame. He is arriving in Islamabad after touring the Central Asian capitals, Kabul and Delhi. He is slated to meet the civilian and military leadership.
As ‘curtain-raiser’ to the consultations in Islamabad, secretary of state Hillary Clinton publicly signalled
in an interview with Reuters on Tuesday that the US is open to bringing the Haqqani group on board a settlement in Afghanistan and accommodate them in a future power set-up. In a second statement on Wednesday at the Centre for American Progress (a think tank reputed to be close to Barack Obama), she sought Pakistan’s cooperation
Meanwhile, there has been another drone attack on North Waziristan hardly hours before Grossman’s arrival in Islamabad. Indeed, Clinton had said that fighting and talks would go together. Conceivably, back channel contacts are under way between the US and the Haqqanis, and it could be a 3-way engagement with Pakistan’s involvement.
Defence Secretary Leon Panetta who has been highly critical of Pakistan’s links with the Haqqanis, has also fallen in line, as it were. During his Q&A at the Woodrow Wilson Centre
in Washington on Tuesday, Panetta made some soothing remarks. He didn’t mention ‘Haqqani’-word even once.
In reply to a pointed question on the linkage between the Afghan and Kashmir problems, he mentioned: a) Afghanistan, Pakistan and India are “all part of a very vital area, a very vital region”; b) an “awful lot of history created incredible complexities and difficulties” for US efforts to bring India, Pakistan and Afghanistan together.
Panetta then went on to state: ” we [US] have urged them [Pakistan] to work with India to try to resolve the issues along the border area, because ultimately, until that is done, we are going to continue to have a great deal of instability. In many ways, Pakistan focuses on India as the primary concern, and so in many ways it’s been difficult to get them to focus on terrorism and militancy within their own country because they have faced that threat [from India] that they consider to be more prominent. If we’re [US] going to resolve the issues of that region, yes, we have to find a solution to Afghanistan. Yes, we have to try to continue to work with Pakistan. But more importantly, we have to bring all of these countries together to resolve the larger issues that had divided them for so long.” [Emphasis added.]
Just as well that the government chose the very same day that Grossman was in town to formally receive the final report of the J&K interlocutors
, following which Home Minister P. Chidambaram reportedly assured them that he would “carry forward the process” they had initiated.