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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Pak army chief in Moscow as US readies Afghan surge news

Pak army chief in Moscow as US readies Afghan surge news
Rajiv Singh22 June 2009

Islamabad: As part of heightened diplomatic activity in the Afghanistan and the Indian sub-continent region, Pakistan army chief of staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani arrived in Moscow on Sunday to hold talks with the entire spectrum of the Russian civilian and military leadership including its president, prime minister and the top rung of the military hierarchy.
General Kayani's visit to Moscow is taking place at the invitation of his Russian counterpart General Vladimir Boldyrev, the commander-in-chief of Russian Land Forces.
The visit comes hot on the heels of Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari's recent trip to Russia to participate in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit.
Pakistan has been resisting attempts by the Americans to involve India more significantly in its so-called 'Af-Pak' policy as a concerned regional power. A deeper involvement of India in Afghanistan's problems runs against Pakistan's concept of ''strategic depth,'' through which it considers Afghanistan as its strategic backyard, where it can determine the political fate and outlook of Kabul.
In its attempts to stymie India, Pakistan has begun actively wooing the support of major powers such as China, Russia and Iran. Pakistan actively sought Chinese and Russian support at the recent SCO summit held at Ekaterinburg.
The 21-23 June visit of General Kayani to Russia is now being perceived as significant in this regard.
The whole region is experiencing a flurry of high-level diplomatic activity even as the US administration comes close to taking a final decision to increase troop presence in Afghanistan when it decides about the dispatch of 21,000 additional US troops to Afghanistan.
The decision is expected to be made at a high-level meeting at the State Department in Washington later this month. Those expected to participate are the US Af-Pak envoy Richard Holbrooke and senior CIA and Pentagon officials.
Significantly, before this meet takes place, and almost as soon as Gen Kayani returns from Moscow, US Central Intelligence Agency chief Leo Panetta will be visiting Islamabad. In line with the Af-Pak policy he is expected to put pressure on Islamabad to let New Delhi play a more active role in the US-led counter-terrorism efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
This will be the intelligence chief's second trip to the region ever since he took over.
He is likely to be accompanied by associate deputy director of CIA, Scott White.
Interior minister Rehman Malik has already made a quick dash to China ten odd days back, ostensibly to seek technical co-operation for anti-terrorism operations.
General Kayani will be the first army chief of Pakistan to visit Russia in six years. The last such visit was made by General Pervez Musharraf in February 2003, which was both in his capacity as army chief and president. Observers say not much tangible progress has been evident since then.
According to the Pakistan military's Inter-Services Public Relations, General Kayani's one-day trip to Russia is aimed at improving co-operation in the defence and military fields between both countries.
Military sources indicated that Gen Kayani will visit the Russian military headquarters and hold talks with the Russian defence minister, foreign minister and its army chief.

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