India asks US, world to stay the course in Afghanistan

Washington, Nov 24 ( Amid reports of declining support for the war in Afghanistan in the US, India has asked the international community to stay engaged in the violence-torn country and warned against any premature exit that will embolden extremists and destabilise the region.

The pointed message by Manmohan Singh came hours before he meets US President Barack Obama Tuesday during which the volatile situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s role in fomenting instability in that country will figure prominently in the discussions.

In two separate addresses to a leading think tank and to top Indian and American businesspersons Monday, Manmohan Singh highlighted India’s stakes in the stability of Afghanistan and advised the US and the international community not to abandon Afghanistan under any circumstances.

Premature talk of exit would only embolden terrorists and destabilise the region, Manmohan Singh said at an event organised by the US-India Business Council (USIBC) amid speculation that Obama would announce a troops surge in Afghanistan as part of its new AfPak strategy.

He reinforced this message to top strategic experts at the Council for Foreign Relations (CFR), a leading American think tank.

“The road to peace on Afghanistan will be long and hard. But given the high stakes involved, the commitment of the international community must be sustained by firm resolve and unity of purpose,” Manmohan Singh said.

India has pledged $1.2 billion for various reconstruction activities in Afghanistan.

Placing the prime minister’s remarks in perspective, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said Manmohan Singh’s message was aimed at convincing the international community about the need to stay engaged in Afghanistan and to convince the Americans that their support was crucial to building a modern Afghanistan.

The focus on dealing with extremists should not be eliminated, she said.

Manmohan Singh’s remarks came amid speculation about an imminent announcement by the Obama administration about its new Afghanistan policy that may include pledging more American troops.