WASHINGTON, July 1: The United States wants Pakistan to have good relations with both India and Afghanistan, said the US State Department on Monday while commenting on observations that relations between Islamabad and New Delhi influence the situation in Afghanistan.

“We want India and Pakistan to have good relations and we want Pakistan and Afghanistan to have good relations,” said the department's spokesman Patrick Ventrell.In an essay posted on an American think tank, British historian William Dalrymple argues that “hostility between India and Pakistan lies at the heart of the current war in Afghanistan”.

Mr Dalrymple said that within Afghanistan, “the war is viewed primarily as a Pashtun rebellion against President Hamid Karzai’s regime”.

But beyond this indigenous conflict “looms the much more dangerous hostility between the two regional powers — both armed with nuclear weapons: India and Pakistan”.

Mr Dalrymple writes that Pakistan fears being squeezed in an Indian nutcracker and this fear is “so great that it has led the ISI to take steps that put Pakistan’s own internal security at risk, as well as Pakistan’s relationship with its main strategic ally, the US”.

Asked to comment on the fears expressed in the essay, the US State Department indicated that it was not only aware of the situation but was already working to improve relations among the three key South Asian neighbours.

Mr Ventrell said that a US special envoy, Ambassador James Dobbins, returned to Washington this weekend from a visit to South Asia and the Middle East.

In his talks with Indian, Pakistani and Afghan leaders, Ambassador Dobbins reportedly emphasised the need to promote peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban rebels.

Ambassador Dobbins also visited Doha, where the United States has helped the Taliban set up a political office to promote peace talks. The initiative, however, became controversial when the Karzai government objected to the Taliban’s decision to hoist their flag on the political office and to a nameplate which described Afghanistan as an Islamic emirate.

The Taliban later removed the flag and the nameplate but they also resumed attacks on government targets inside Afghanistan.

Mr Ventrell said Ambassador Dobbins had returned to Washington without setting a date for future talks with the Taliban.

But the US continued to believe that “only an Afghan-led and intra-Afghan peace negotiation” could end this war.

Mr Ventrell also said that the Karzai government had not yet indicated when it was going to resume security talks with the US, suspended after the Taliban opened their political office in Doha.

But both Presidents Obama and Karzai agreed that a security agreement between the US and Afghanistan was “good for peace”, he said.

The two presidents also wanted to conclude this agreement as soon as possible, Mr Ventrell said.