The Cable

India’s ambassador calls for patience in Afghanistan

The Indian government wants the United States to "stay the course" in Afghanistan, New Delhi’s ambassador to Washington said Monday evening. Speaking at a meeting of the Atlantic Council, a U.S. think tank, Indian Ambassador H.E. Meera Shankar said the Indian government would not favor a precipitous withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, despite recent ...

The Indian government wants the United States to "stay the course" in Afghanistan, New Delhi’s ambassador to Washington said Monday evening.

Speaking at a meeting of the Atlantic Council, a U.S. think tank, Indian Ambassador H.E. Meera Shankar said the Indian government would not favor a precipitous withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, despite recent trepidations expressed by senior U.S. Democratic lawmakers.

"We believe that peace, stability, and security in this region will require a sustained U.S. commitment and will not in a short time come to pass," she said. "We do think that the imperative to stay the course is strong and we would hope that this is something which the U.S. would find a way to accept."

Shankar also called on the U.S. government to make changes to the character and oversight of U.S. military assistance to Pakistan, in light of recent claims by former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf that he diverted U.S. aid meant to fight extremists to Pakistan’s Indian front.

Although India supports the economic and development aid given to Pakistan, "We do feel that in the security field, the assistance should be more tightly focused on building counterinsurgency capabilities rather than conventional defense equipment, which can be diverted for other purposes," said Shankar, adding that there may be a need for greater accountability for how the funds are spent.

She also criticized the Pakistani government for what she sees as its slow-walking of the investigation and trials of suspects in the November terrorist attacks in Mumbai. Pointing out that the India-based trial for one of the alleged perpetrators is already well underway, she said that "Pakistan has yet to bring those responsible for the Mumbai attacks to trial."

"We would like more vigorous investigation of people who might have been responsible for the terrorist attacks and who at present have not been apprehended, including several key leaders," she added.

On the topic of climate change, Shankar addressed differences over the issue that were highlighted during U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton‘s July visit to New Delhi. According to reports, Indian officials told Clinton during that visit that India would not accept limits on carbon emissions, complicating the Obama administration’s effort to secure an effective worldwide climate-change accord.

Looking ahead to December’s U.N. climate-change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, Shanker said that due to India’s rapid growth and sparse energy availability, "absolute reductions in emissions may become very challenging and perhaps impossible."

But she added that India could be guided by the declaration that came out of the July major-economies meeting in L’Aquila, Italy, which said that developing countries could alter their emissions in a way that represents a "meaningful deviation from business as usual."

"That provides a more realistic basis to move ahead and represents the consensus that could be forged at the end of that [next] meeting of major economies on climate change [in Copenhagen]," said Shankar.

 Twitter: @joshrogin
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