NEW DELHI - US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will encourage India to take a more active role in Afghanistan as international forces draw down after a decade of war, US officials said on Tuesday as the Pentagon chief arrived in New Delhi for two days of talks.
The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, acknowledged the longstanding rivalry between India and Pakistan for influence in Afghanistan but insisted that both countries had an interest in working with the international community to ensure stability in their northern neighbor.
"There is a risk that the tensions and historical mistrust between India and Pakistan could lead them to view their respective roles in Afghanistan as being in conflict," one official said. "This is not predestined. This does not have to be the case."
Pakistan wields considerable influence over neighboring Afghanistan, while India is already one of its biggest bilateral donors, having pledged about $2 billion since the 2001 US led-invasion for projects from the construction of highways to the building of the Afghan parliament.