President Karzai Seeks Indian Military Aid amid Tensions with Pakistan
KABUL – Afghan President Hamid Karzai plans to discuss potential arms deals with Indian officials during a trip to New Delhi this week, officials said, at a time when tensions are running high on Afghanistan’s disputed border with Pakistan. Kabul’s overtures to New Delhi are likely to rile Islamabad where a new government led by two-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is set to take office soon, promising improved ties with India.
Pakistan has long resisted Indian involvement in Afghanistan, seeing it as a plan to encircle it, and any fresh wrangling between the rivals would add to Afghanistan’s problems as the Western military withdrawal draws near. Karzai’s spokesman Aimal Faizi said the Afghan leader would discuss in New Delhi the flare-up on the Durand Line, the colonial-era border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, in addition to ways to strengthen Afghan security institutions.
“Afghanistan has already agreed and signed a strategic pact with India and based on that agreement, India assists Afghanistan on several grounds, including the military sector,” Faizi said. “In order to strengthen Afghan security forces, we will ask India to help us with military needs and shortages,” he said.
India has been training a limited number of Afghan military officers for years at its military institutions, but provided little weapons assistance except for some vehicles. In 2011 New Delhi signed a strategic partnership agreement with Kabul, allowing the two sides to expand training as Afghan forces prepare to takeover security from foreign troops at the end of 2014.
An Indian foreign ministry spokesman said New Delhi’s cooperation with Afghanistan was focused on development projects but security was also an important aspect given the challenges it faced. “While we are striving to realize this vision of an economically viable Afghanistan … we have no illusions that we can ignore the political and security issues that stand in the way of realizing that vision,” said Syed Akbaruddin.
He added the question of equipping Afghan forces was best discussed through the strategic partnership agreement and that a meeting would be held later this year to discuss security and political matters. (Reuters)