KABUL, Jan 9: Reconciliation efforts between the Taliban and the Afghan government must be led by Kabul, India's foreign minister said on Sunday, warning that outside interference could undermine the prospect of a stable Afghanistan.

S.M. Krishna also said that security threats would not drive his country out of Afghanistan. His comments came shortly after a delegation from the Afghan High Peace Council travelled to Pakistan to discuss how to move forward with the efforts to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.

“India has always supported the efforts of Afghanistan to reintegrate those individuals who are willing to (reject) violence, respect values of democracy, pluralism and human rights as enshrined in the Afghan constitution, and do not have links with terrorist groups,” Mr Krishna said at a joint news conference with his Afghan counterpart, Zalmai Rassoul.

“The process should be Afghan-led, inclusive and transparent,” said Mr Krishna, who also met President Hamid Karzai.

“Any external interference in the reintegration process would be detrimental both for its success and for the future of a democratic, stable, pluralistic and prosperous Afghanistan.”

Mr Krishna said he and Mr Rassoul discussed the issue of terrorism and that they agreed on the need to deal “firmly with terrorist groups that continue to exist outside Afghanistan's borders”.

India is playing an increasing role in Afghanistan. Indian companies are carrying out several projects in the country and Mr Krishna said his nation was commit- ted to staying in the country and helping Afghans as long as the “legitimately elected” government of Afghanistan wanted.

He said India was going to donate 100,000 tons of wheat to Afghanistan, a move linked to the drought that has ravaged crop development over the year.

Mr Krishna said the threat to his country's mission, and its workers in Afghanistan, was “a cause of great concern”, but that he was confident the Afghan government could provide the necessary security.

“Let me hasten to add India is not going to be cut down by such threats,” he said.

Both India and Afghanistan have pointed the finger at Pakistan over security threats, alleging that elements within its power structures fund and support extremism.

Analysts say regional rivals India and Pakistan are locked in a struggle for influence in Afghanistan, which borders Pakistan.

India is believed to give more money to Afghanistan than any other country in the region, through aid and reconstruction programmes. —Agencies

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