Krishna to leave for Kabul Monday, likely to meet Clinton

New Delhi, July 18 (Calcutta Tube) External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna travels to Kabul Monday on a two-day visit for an international conference Monday where he is likely to have a bilateral meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the sidelines of the meet.

More than 70 countries are expected to send their foreign ministers and representatives for the conference, the largest gathering of international leaders in Afghanistan since the 1970s, where the Karzai government will seek help to improve governance and national stability.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai will host a dinner for Krishna Monday night.

Krishna and Clinton are likely to meet on the sidelines of the conference Tuesday, official sources said here. They are likely to discuss the volatile situation in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region and preparation for the visit of US President Barack Obama to India in November.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi will also be in Kabul for the conference, but no bilateral meeting has been planned. At best, there may be a handshake or a pull-aside chat, the sources said.

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao Saturday ruled out a bilateral meeting between Krishna and Qureshi.

The focus of the first Kabul-hosted international conference on Afghanistan Tuesday will be on finding Afghan solutions to the protracted conflict against the Taliban.

The conference will also take up the contentious proposal of reconciliation and reintegration of the Taliban, a move backed by the earlier London conference and endorsed by the peace jirga.

Krishna is likely to air India’s concerns about the reintegration proposal as it fears it may end up propping up Pakistan-backed anti-India Taliban elements back in the saddle in a power-sharing arrangement in Kabul.

Pakistan has stepped up efforts to influence power-sharing negotiations in Afghanistan, adding to New Delhi’s worries, specially in view of the July 2011 deadline for withdrawal of US forces from that country.

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