India's ambassador to the US Nirupama Rao. — Reuters Photo

WASHINGTON: India on Monday voiced caution about US-backed efforts to reach a political solution with Afghanistan's Taliban, warning against a victory for the “dark forces of terrorism”.

Nirupama Rao, the Indian ambassador to the United States, voiced strong support for US-led military efforts in Afghanistan but said that New Delhi was “keenly watching” tentative attempts for talks with the Taliban.

“While we agree that ultimately there would have to be a political solution, we also believe that this should not become an overriding objective that needs to be achieved at all costs,” Rao said.

“That would risk the prospect of a victory of those dark forces of terrorism and religious extremism that have plagued the region for so long,” she said in a speech at George Washington University.

US envoy Marc Grossman held talks this weekend in Afghanistan with President Hamid Karzai and said he found strong support for peace efforts, as the Taliban look to open an office in Qatar to facilitate talks.

But the United States said that the Taliban needed to renounce violence and cut relations with Al-Qaeda before negotiations.

The United States hopes to withdraw the bulk of its forces from Afghanistan in 2014 amid public fatigue in the United States and its Western allies over a war first launched following the September 11, 2001 attacks by Al-Qaeda.

India has been enthusiastic about the fight against the Taliban, whose 1996-2001 regime was allied with Pakistan and provided refuge to militants who targeted Indian interests.

India has given more than $2 billion in aid to post-Taliban Afghanistan and plans to play a larger role training Afghan forces.

Grossman last week also visited India on his trip to discuss peace efforts.

But Pakistan refused his visit, saying it first wanted to complete a review of its relations with the United States.



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