WASHINGTON - In what appears to be an attempt to irritate Pakistan, US special envoy Marc Grossman, who is tasked with gathering support for reconciliation talks with the Taliban, will go to India on his current trip around the region, only days after Islamabad said he was not welcome there.

Grossman, who is in Dubai, left Washington on Jan 15th on a trip that includes Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Qatar, where he reportedly will be finalising the arrangements for the opening of a Taliban representative office in Doha.

The State Department admitted on Tuesday that Grossman wanted to visit Pakistan but that Islamabad asked him not to come, as they are finishing their overall review of the US-Pakistan relationship following the Nov 26th NATO killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers on the Afghanistan border.

NATO supply routes through Pakistan have been blocked ever since and the Obama administration, though it has privately offered condolences, refuses to publicly apologise for the incident. So, to fill in time in his schedule, Grossman added a stop in New Delhi, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at Wednesday's Press briefing.

He will be there on Friday, just before going to Kabul, and the stop was just added to his agenda. No word on who he'll be meeting there. ‘Is that a message to Pakistan because they rejected him?’ Nuland was asked.

‘In no way’, Nuland responded. ‘We made clear that we would welcome a stop by Ambassador Grossman in Islamabad on this trip. You know that the Pakistanis are looking hard internally at our relationship. They asked us to give them time to do that, so he will not be going there on this trip’, she said. Nuland said India is a crucial player in the way forward in Afghanistan.

‘We believe that India has a role to play in supporting a democratic, prosperous future for Afghanistan’, she added.

‘They're very much a player in the New Silk Road initiative. These are all part and parcel of the same ‘fight, talk, build' strategy. India does, as you know, support police training and other things in Afghanistan. So it's important that we keep those lines of communication open’, she said.