January 30, 2010 / 7:59 AM / in 9 years

India softens stand on negotiating with Taliban

(For more stories on Afghanistan and India click [ID:nAFPAK]

NEW DELHI, Jan 30 (Reuters) - India is willing to back efforts to seek peace with Taliban to stabilise Afghanistan, foreign minister S.M. Krishna said, indicating a softening of stand towards a group known to be close to rival Pakistan.

“We are willing to give it a try,” Krishna told the Times of India in an interview published on Saturday.

“If the Taliban meets the three conditions put forward — acceptance of the Afghan constitution, severing connections with al Qaeda and other terrorist groups and renunciation of violence, and are accepted in the mainstream of Afghan politics and society, we could do business.”

India has sought to retain influence in Afghanistan to deter anti-India militant training camps there — which it accuses rival Pakistan of backing — and to more generally try and counter a militant Islamic surge threatening regional security.

It seeks to do so in part with a $1.2 billion aid spent on building roads and power lines that has won popular support.

Pakistan, which considers Afghanistan as a fall back position in the event of a war with India, says New Delhi is expanding its presence there to stir discontent inside Pakistan.

Krishna’s comments come after ministers from 60 countries met in London on Thursday to endorse a plan to win over Taliban foot soldiers with cash and jobs in a renewed effort to turn the tide in the eight-year-old war. [ID:nLDE60ROMM].

While accepting the reality of the new plan on the Taliban, Krishna made clear the Indian discomfort with the group, saying its fundamental assessment of the Taliban remained unchanged.

“We consider them to be terrorists who have close links with the al-Qaida and other terrorist groups,” he told the daily.

“We are next door and our experiences make it difficult for us to differentiate between good or bad Taliban,” he said, adding the West saw the group “from far away”.

Besides trying to lure away Taliban fighters from the insurgency, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has also offered to hold talks with the top leaders of the Taliban. The Taliban have not yet responded to his latest appeal. (Reporting by Krittivas Mukherjee; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

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