Kabul declines Indian request for consulate in Jalalabad
By Iqbal Khattak
PESHAWAR: Afghan President Hamid Karzai has turned down New Delhi’s request to open a consulate in Jalalabad to avoid a possible diplomatic row with Islamabad, local and Afghan sources told Daily Times here on Monday.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, sources said the Indian External Affairs Ministry had sought Kabul’s approval for opening consulates in Kandahar and Jalalabad, two strategically important Afghan cities, which are very close to Pakistani border.
“Kabul has declined to let New Delhi open a consulate in Jalalabad,” sources said and added: “The decision followed Pakistan’s strong reservations at the Indian move and the (Afghan) president’s foresight to stave off diplomatic or political tension with Islamabad.”However, Pakistan’s Foreign Office expressed ignorance about any decision by the Afghan president to refuse the Indian request. “I know only that New Delhi had requested (the Afghan government) to open a consulate in Jalalabad. But I don’t know whether Kabul has granted the request or not,” Foreign Office Spokesman Aziz Ahmed Khan told Daily Times from Islamabad.
Since the Taliban abandoned Kabul in the wake of relentless US bombardments last year, the Indian government has shown keen interests in developing ties with the war-ravaged country, mainly because its ally Northern Alliance took centre stage in the post-Taliban Afghanistan.
Pakistan has raised the issue of growing Indian influence in Afghanistan with the Karzai government, pressing the UN-backed transitional administration to keep New Delhi’s intentions in check. “Obviously, the (Indian) move was aimed at Pakistan and Kabul’s reaction was logical,” a local expert on Pak-Afghan affairs told Daily Times. Sources said a six-member Indian delegation visited Jalalabad in early October to make arrangements for the consulate. “Afghan Defence Minister General Fahim asked commander Hazrat Ali, corps commander of Nangarhar province, to extend every help to the Indian delegation,” Afghan sources in Jalalabad told Daily Times.
However, security concerns and lack of support from Nangarhar Governor Haji Deen Muhammad, brother of slain vice-president Haji Abdul Qadir, forced the Indians to drop the idea of opening a consulate in Jalalabad, mainly aimed at countering Pakistan’s alleged role in freedom struggle in Held Kashmir, sources claimed. “President Karzai was reluctant to grant the Indian request because he knew Islamabad would be displeased if India was allowed to set up a consulate in Jalalabad,” they added.