"Handshake across the Himalayas"
India and China will study new ways to ease tensions along their ill-defined border, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said on Monday in his first foreign trip since taking office, which comes just weeks after a military stand-off between the Asian giants in the Himalayas. Full Article | Slideshow
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U.S. envoy seeks to soothe India worries
NEW DELHI |
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke sought on Wednesday to allay concerns in India that Washington's new regional strategy for Afghanistan is pandering to its old foe Pakistan.
Holbrooke, visiting New Delhi as special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said India and Pakistan would need to work together to battle Islamist militancy in the region.
The envoy was on his first trip to India since President Barack Obama announced plans to boost troop numbers in Afghanistan, while helping Pakistan with more military and non-military aid.
India is uneasy that Obama's strategy fails to reflect its concerns about what New Delhi sees as Pakistan's backing of militants, analysts and government officials say.
There are also concerns that Pakistan wants a solution to disputed Kashmir as an element of any regional peace efforts, a condition that India rejects.
"We did not come here to ask the Indians to do anything, we came here to inform them about our trip as we always do and to get their views. We did not come here with any requests," Holbrooke told reporters.
Holbrooke, along with Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, met Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon.
"For the first time since partition India, Pakistan and the United States are facing a common threat and a common challenge," Holbrooke said. "But now that we face a common threat, we must work together and in the centre of that area is Pakistan."
Many Indian analysts and officials worry Washington is biased toward helping Pakistan -- an old U.S. ally -- rather than India, which only in recent years has moved closer to the United States.
The presence of India in Afghanistan, where it is spending millions of dollars in infrastructure projects, worries Pakistan.
"The U.S. has bought the Pakistan military's line that India's presence in Afghanistan is a threat to them," former Indian foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal told Reuters.
"And they are saying if the U.S. wants Pakistan's full cooperation in fighting al Qaeda, then something should be done to contain or limit India's presence."
Holbrooke's visit comes weeks before a general election and the Indian government is not expected to make any commitments.
"I think that the Obama people have a view that doesn't fit in New Delhi," said Siddharth Varadarajan, strategic affairs editor of the Hindu newspaper. "But they are not in a hurry to press it."
"The government has its hands tied with elections."
India does not want to talk to Pakistan unless Islamabad investigates the planners of last November's attacks on Mumbai that killed 166 people, prompting New Delhi to put a four-year-old peace initiative on hold.
Pakistan was the Taliban's main backer until Islamabad publicly sided with Washington after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. India accuses it of giving covert support to Islamist forces which bombed the Indian embassy in Kabul last year.
Pakistan says India is arming its Baluch rebels and using Indian consulates in Afghanistan for anti-Pakistan activities.
(Additional reporting by Robert Birsel in Islamabad)
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