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U.S. Envoy Arrives In India To Talk Pakistan, Afghanistan

Afghan President Hamid Karzai (right) with U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke at a press conference in Kabul
NEW DELHI (Reuters) -- U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke is set to meet India's foreign minister and top security officials to discuss regional security, with simmering tension with Pakistan high on the agenda.

The U.S. envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan arrived in New Delhi late on February 15 after meeting officials in Islamabad and Kabul last week.

"Ambassador Holbrooke will meet External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee on a variety of regional issues, including a discussion of India's views on Afghanistan and regional security," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

While Holbrooke will be talking about India's role in Afghanistan, analysts said India would raise the issue of militant activities in Pakistan and its demand for the infrastructure of terrorism to be dismantled across the border.

"India will tell Holbrooke to avoid mistakes, we need to control terrorism and not fuel it," said Brahma Chellaney, professor of strategic studies at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi.

India sees itself as a promoter of stability in Afghanistan. It is building highways, setting up consulates, and is one of the country's biggest donors. It also believes it has diplomatic leverage through its links to Afghanistan's neighbors like Iran.

But Pakistan fears growing Indian influence there, suspecting an attempt by New Delhi to encircle it. Those fears are said to be a reason why Pakistan has been reluctant to completely cut ties with the Taliban, seeing them as a tool to maintain its influence in Afghanistan by proxy.

One of Holbrooke's chief aims will be to reduce the mistrust between India and Pakistan over their respective roles in Afghanistan.

"Pakistan and Afghanistan now has become a combine because of the nature of the problem that exists there, particularly growing terrorism," said Uday Bhaskar, a strategic analyst. "Both countries will be part of the agenda."

Pakistan is seeking billions of dollars from the U.S. to fight Islamist militancy and the growing influence of the Taliban, but India still doubts Pakistan's intentions.

"India ought to tell Holbrooke of the danger of the U.S. not drawing lessons from past mistakes and ignoring Pakistan's role and sharing billions of dollars on aid," Chellaney said.

The U.S. envoy, a former ambassador to the United Nations who negotiated the 1995 peace agreement ending the Bosnian war, will seek a bigger role from India in the development of Afghanistan, analysts in New Delhi said.

"The Obama team has revised its objective, and it is not just democracy, they are trying to manage the situation there," Bhaskar said.

Last week, President Barack Obama ordered a review of Washington's policy in Afghanistan, looking at both military and nonmilitary aspects of U.S. policy, as American and NATO troops struggle against a growing Taliban insurgency.

The review is to be completed before a NATO summit in April.