November 23, 2009 / 11:50 AM / 8 years ago

Q+A: India, U.S. and Pakistan

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said Pakistan's objectives in Afghanistan are not necessarily those of the United States, a rare, harsh criticism of Islamabad by a man seen as trying to reduce tension between the arch rivals.

Here are some questions and answers on India's concerns in Afghanistan where it competes with Pakistan for influence.

Why Has Singh Attacked Pakistan Now?

The comment coincides with a visit to Washington where Singh is expected to tell President Barack Obama about the failure of U.S. strategy to reflect New Delhi's concerns about Islamabad's backing of anti-India militants based on Pakistani soil.

Washington is currently reviewing policy in its eight-year-old war in Afghanistan and India would be keen to drive home its point before a final decision is made.

Washington, though, has already taken some of India's concerns into consideration. It has attached conditions to U.S. security-related aid for Pakistan, including preventing militant groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which was accused of last year's assault on Mumbai, from operating in Pakistan and attacking neighboring countries.

But India would like Washington to follow up on the conditions and keep up the pressure on Pakistan to crack down on anti-India groups on its soil.

Why Does India Want a Role in Stabilising Afghanistan?

India is one of the biggest donors in Afghanistan and its influence -- $1.2 billion in aid from highway construction to new consulates -- is viewed with suspicion from many actors in the region, from Islamist militants to Pakistan.

Pakistan has long regarded Afghanistan as a fall-back position in the event of war with India and fears being squeezed between India on its eastern border and a hostile Afghanistan, backed by India.

New Delhi seeks to retain influence in Afghanistan to deter anti-India militant training camps there it accuses Pakistan of backing and to control any possibility of an Islamic surge in a region with traditional ties to Islamabad.

New Delhi is uncomfortable about any policy that backs co-opting the Taliban into any power structure in Kabul.

What Does Singh's Comment Mean for India-Pakistan Peace?

Though Singh is seen as willing to negotiate with Islamabad, his comment drew criticism from Pakistan, which said it was an excuse for delaying resumption of peace talks.

Tension between the two sides remains high and a breakthrough in relations remains unlikely, given the slow progress by Pakistan into the Mumbai attack that killed 166 people.

But Singh's remarks could also help work up some pressure on Islamabad, which may find its status as the oldest U.S. ally in South Asia threatened by India's newfound political and economic heft in Washington.

Editing by Alistair Scrutton

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