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Central & South Asia
Holbrooke holds talks in India
Visit follows Islamabad's admission that Mumbai attackers had base in Pakistan.
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2009 21:58 GMT
Islamabad has admitted at least part of the Mumbai attack was planned in Pakistan [AFP]

The new US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan has met Indian officials and discussed Afghanistan and simmering tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad.

Richard Holbrooke said on Monday after meeting Pranab Mukherjee, India's external affairs minister, that he "just wanted to hear the views of India on a wide range of issues".

"I carried no messages or guidance. I reported to the government of India on my trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan," Holbrooke said.

The US envoy's tour of India follows visits to Pakistan and Afghanistan, where security issues also topped the agenda.

He declined to provide specific details about what was discussed regarding the November 26 attacks in Mumbai, which India blames on Pakistani-based fighters.

"I carried no messages or guidance. I reported to the government of India on my trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan"

Richard Holbrooke, special US envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan

Holbrooke also met with MK Narayanan, India's national security adviser, and Shivshankar Menon, the foreign secretary.

Earlier, the US embassy in New Delhi said the envoy would discuss "a variety of regional issues, including discussion on India's views on Afghanistan and regional security".

The talks follow Islamabad's admission that many of those responsible for last year's attacks on Mumbai, which left more than 170 people dead, were based in Pakistan.

India has labelled Pakistan the "epicentre of terrorism" in the area, accusing it of harbouring groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is widely blamed for the November attacks.

"Until the Mumbai attacks, the perception in Washington was that the US is fighting the global war against terror and that India was fighting a local war against terror," Lalit Mansingh, India's former ambassador to Washington, said.

"But that has changed. Now there is a better understanding that there is little difference between so called global and local terror groups."

'Restraint' exercised

Abdul Basit, Pakistan's foreign minister, insists India has not yet "come clean on the multiple facets of the Mumbai tragedy" and urges it to "expose the names of persons and entities in India who were also responsible for acts of commission and omission".
 
Basit said Pakistan acted "with a high sense of responsibility and exercised restraint" and had "offered our hand of co-operation in the interest of regional peace and security", with regard to the investigation into the Mumbai attacks.

New Delhi is also likely to discuss its concerns over the US providing military aid to the region.

Holbrooke visited Pakistan and Afghanistan before arriving in India [AFP]
Pakistan is asking for billions of dollars to battle armed groups in its northwestern tribal area, which the US says has become a haven for suspected Taliban fighters who fled Afghanistan after the US ousted the Taliban in 2001.

Pakistani military says they need increased support and equipment to overpower the Taliban fighters.

According to reports, Islamabad told Holbrooke it would be better able to focus on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border if the issue of divided Kashmir was solved.

But India insists that Kashmir remains "a bilateral issue" with Pakistan.

India and Pakistan have had strained relations over Kashmir, since partition in 1947, fighting two wars over the disputed region.

US ally

Pakistan has been a vital US ally in the fight against the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan, but America's popularity in the region has suffered because of dozens of suspected US missile attacks against fighters inside Pakistan.

Holbrooke was appointed to implement a new US strategy in South Asia under Barack Obama, the US president, who plans to boost troop numbers in Afghanistan and to prompt Islamabad to eradicate al-Qaeda safe havens inside Pakistan.

Al Jazeera's Matt McClure, reporting from New Delhi, said that he had not been a popular choice among Indian diplomats.
 
"They view Richard Holbrooke as perhaps too pro-Pakistani in his tilt," McClure said.
 
"When word started to leak in Washington that Holbrooke would be the man and that India would be included in his area of responsibility,the Indian diplomats there were working overtime, lobbying very hard against his appointment."

Following his visit, which completes his first tour of the region since being appointed to the post last month, Holbrooke will report back to Obama, and Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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