Holbrooke added that the US perceived the Lashkar-e-Toiba dangerous for the international community as the Taliban and al-Qaeda are. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and External Affairs Minister S M Krishna met on the sidelines of an international conference on Afghanistan in Kabul last Tuesday, less than a week after the India-Pakistan Foreign Secretary-level talks ended in a deadlock in Islamabad.
Holbrooke, who was present during the Clinton-Krishna meet, told journalists here that America’s improving relations with India and Pakistan were in the interests of the two South Asian countries as Washington wanted better ties between New Delhi and Islamabad.
“The truth is that the US has better relations with India and Pakistan than the two countries have with each other. It’s in the interest of both the countries,” he said.
Holbrooke met Krishna and Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao in New Delhi on Thursday. He also met National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon on Wednesday.
The US Af-Pak envoy sought to assuage India’s concerns over what is perceived by New Delhi a pro-Pakistan tilt in American policy on Afghanistan as well as over the Washington-backed move to reintegrate the so-called ‘good’ or moderate Taliban and reconcile with them in the conflict-hit country.
“This is not a zero-sum game. If the US improves its interactions with Pakistan, it does not mean diminishing the role of India,” said Holbrooke, who was in Islamabad before travelling to Kabul.
“Our support for India is undiminished. India has a central role in the region. India can play a very important role in search for stability in the region,” he said, adding that Afghanistan’s neighbours like India had legitimate security interests in the stability of that country.
“It is for India to decide what it wants its role to be in Afghanistan,” Holbrooke reiterated.
He, however, also stressed Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan. “You cannot stabilise Afghanistan without Pakistan’s support as a concerned, legitimate partner,” said Holbrooke.
He said that cooperation between the US and Pakistan over Afghanistan should not be seen as a threat to India’s role in the region. It was in the interest of both India and Pakistan to improve their relations and the US would back any effort in that direction, said the US envoy.
He said that different terrorist groups in the region were working more closely together than ever before. “Their long-term objective is to destroy Western civilisation and create crisis between New Delhi and Islamabad,” he added.
State Department spokesman P J Crowley said the US values cooperation with India on combating terrorism but it places responsibility on both countries.