Pakistan has expressed its reservations over the inclusion of India in a regional council on Afghanistan proposed by Britain, even as it asked to maintain the "historic neutrality" to ensure that Afghan soil is not used against any of its neighbours.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani conveyed Pakistan's concerns to visiting British Foreign Secretary David Miliband during a meeting on Saturday, the Dawn newspaper quoted its sources as saying.
Gilani said the move to include India might compromise Pakistan's interest. He also discussed the alleged use of Afghan soil by India for "subversive activities in Pakistan" and asked allied forces to address Islamabad's concerns.
"The forthcoming London conference on Afghanistan must exclusively focus on Afghanistan," Gilani was quoted as saying in a statement issued by his office.
"The historic neutrality of Afghanistan should be maintained with the commitment that Afghan soil will not be used against any of its neighbours," he added.
Miliband told Gilani that UK considered Pakistan's role as Afghanistan's neighbour as vital and assured him that Islamabad's interests will not be compromised.
UK is actively working on setting up a "regional stabilisation council" after hosting an international conference on Afghanistan, to be held in London on January 28. The creation of a regional framework is being projected by UK as a key theme of the London meet.
Future initiatives on Afghanistan should also ensure that country's "territorial integrity, national reconciliation and peace and stability," Gilani said.
Gilani emphasised that though Pakistan is not opposed to any regional cooperation for dealing with the Afghan imbroglio, it believed that only geographically contiguous countries should be involved in deliberations on peace and security in Afghanistan, the Dawn quoted its sources as saying.
The forthcoming London Conference on Afghanistan should ensure that consensus developed on the civilian track "should have Afghan ownership for a genuinely Afghan-led reconciliation process", he added.
Gilani also called for setting up an Afghan Re-Settlement Fund to support a programme that would provide incentives for the return of Afghan refugees from Pakistan. Pakistan currently hosts millions of Afghan refugees.
The premier said Britain and Pakistan should persist with concerted efforts to strengthen their cooperation under their strategic dialogue.
He appreciated the timely disbursement of economic aid and welcomed the scheduling of the second Pakistan-EU Summit in Brussels in April 2010.
Miliband, at a joint news conference with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi, said Pakistan's stability depended on a stable Afghanistan.Pakistan also shared concept papers with Britain on a strategic dialogue and the proposed Pakistan-UK Foundation. The concept papers were handed over at the Foreign Office to Miliband, who said Britain will give its feedback through diplomatic channels.