India, China, Russia seek role in Afghan policy
BANGALORE, India (Reuters) - The foreign ministers of Russia, China and India said on Tuesday that the world must remain engaged in Afghanistan, with Moscow seeking a greater role for regional powers in stabilising the war-torn country.
The appeal by the three big powers comes at a time when public support for the war in Afghanistan is fading in Western countries, and just as the United States is debating whether to send more troops to arrest a growing Taliban insurgency.
"The ministers emphasised the necessity of the international community maintaining its commitment to render assistance to the government and people of Afghanistan in ensuring security and development...," the foreign ministers said in a statement following their meeting in the southern Indian city of Bangalore.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters that the three countries were coordinating their efforts to restore stability to Afghanistan and "counter terrorism and drug trafficking".
"We can not stand aloof and impartial on what's going on in the friendly neighbouring countries and adjacent countries too," Lavrov said.
Analysts said India, China and Russia, were trying to send a signal that each had a stake in Afghanistan and that the United States couldn't continue to pursue a unilateral path.
"The timing of the statement is significant because the Americans are now reviewing their war and it's a clear signal to the U.S. that it can not go it alone with its so-called Af-Pak policy," said Uday Bhaskar, director of the National Maritime Foundation, a New Delhi-based thinktank.
FOCUS ON PAKISTAN
U.S. strategy for Afghanistan, focused partly on Pakistan which Washington sees as a crucial ally, has largely ignored the concerns of regional countries such as India, China and Russia that share security interests with Afghanistan, analysts say.
"Russia is saying this can't be a bilateral thing between the U.S. and Pakistan because this concerns the core of other countries in the region and they have to be taken into account," Bhaskar said.
Both India and China have made huge investments in Afghanistan.
"The Russians are saying re-evaluate elements in the Af-Pak policy which have not worked such as over-reliance on Pakistani military, under-reliance on Afghan national army and deals with the Taliban," said Siddharth Varadarajan, strategic affairs editor of The Hindu newspaper.
"They are saying have consultations with the RIC (Russia, India, China) countries which have a stake far more long term than many others."
But any cooperation between India and China is limited by rising friction over a long-running border dispute, as also Chinese support for Pakistan which is competing for influence with India in Afghanistan.
New Delhi is seeding Afghanistan with development projects worth $1.2 billion but its citizens and embassy in Kabul have come under repeated attacks from Islamist militants uneasy with Hindu-majority India's growing clout.
Many in India see the hand of Pakistan's military in these attacks. Islamabad considers Afghanistan a fall-back position in the event of war with India and has objected to New Delhi's growing presence in the country.
(Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Sanjeev Miglani)
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