Pakistani fears over India Afghan role 'not groundless'

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US special envoy on Afghanistan and Pakistan James Dobbins in Delhi on June 27, 2013
Image caption,
US special envoy on Af-Pak James Dobbins has just returned from a trip to the region

Pakistan's concerns over India's presence in Afghanistan are exaggerated but "not groundless", US Special Envoy James Dobbins has told the BBC.

Islamabad accuses Delhi of fomenting trouble on its western border through its consular presence in the Afghan cities of Kandahar and Jalalabad.

India denies the charge and says it is working on trade and development.

India has spent $2bn on development projects in Afghanistan and has strong diplomatic and trade ties with Kabul.

In an interview with the BBC, Mr Dobbins said the Indian presence in Afghan cities was minuscule and it was "perfectly reasonable" because of their economic and cultural ties.

'Somewhat exaggerated'

Mr Dobbins, US special envoy on Afghanistan and Pakistan, has recently returned from a trip to the region along with the Secretary of State John Kerry.

He said that Islamabad was also concerned about the issue of "cross-border militancy".

"The dominant infiltration of militants is from Pakistan into Afghanistan, but we recognise that there is some infiltration of hostile militants from the other direction as well. So Pakistan's concerns aren't groundless… They are simply, in our judgement, somewhat exaggerated," Mr Dobbins said.

In the past, US officials have expressed such sentiments in private, but this is the first time that a diplomat has said it openly.

Kabul has often blamed Pakistan-backed militants for violence in Afghanistan.

The US too has expressed its unhappiness over havens provided to these militants in Pakistan.

Mr Dobbins said the issue had been discussed at great length with Pakistan.

"We do remain concerned about the relative freedom with which Afghan insurgents can operate out of Pakistan," he said.

"We believe that Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US need to collaborate much more closely to deal with this threat of cross-border infiltration."

He said that Afghan President Hamid Karzai was "quite warm" to the idea of talking to the Taliban and had asked Pakistan to facilitate contact between the Afghan High Peace Council and the insurgents.

He said he hoped that the talks could begin within the next three months.