President Karzai’s Trip to India
President Hamid Karzai’s trip to India has been coincided with the security agreement impasse between Kabul and Washington and is coming after his closely-watched visit from Tehran. In India, President Karzai once again defied the pressure exerted by the United States for signing the bilateral security agreement, the BSA, saying that he was not going to be intimidated by the US over the security agreement. Karzai’s regional tour of Iran and India has closely become intertwined with the ongoing standoff between Kabul and Washington and the prospect of a US military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014. Many view the timing of President Karzai’s regional trip related to the ongoing standoff with Washington as he has been seeking boosting security and economic relations between Afghanistan and the regional countries.
In India, President Karzai is pressing Indian government for a deeper security support and defense ties as the US-led international coalition is set to withdraw from the country by end of 2014. The Afghan government had previously demanded India to provide military hardware such as tanks and artilleries for Afghanistan’s security forces and enhance defense relations with Afghanistan. However, India seems to be more cautious over the possible fallouts of an enhanced defense and security ties between New Delhi and Kabul as Pakistan is specifically concerned with Indian presence in Afghanistan. So far India has refrained to accept Afghanistan’s demand for equipping the country with sensitive military hardware. At the same time, India seems eager to enhance security cooperation with Afghanistan to help the country fighting an implacable insurgency after the NATO withdrawal.
The Afghan government’s move to enhance relations with neighboring countries and sign mutual cooperation pacts with the regional powers can be interpreted as an attempt to gain that balance of relations with neighbors and regional countries. Given the regional impacts of the Afghan conflict, the Afghan government knows very well that regional cooperation on Afghanistan will remain a key factor in resolving the conflict and help the government in fighting the insurgency. Despite that the security agreement with the US is the only viable source of sustained security support, regional security cooperation and support for military presence of the United States would remain essential for peace in Afghanistan. There is a regional agreement on Afghanistan and regional powers including India are supporting a residual force of the US to stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014 to help the country fighting the Taliban.
As President Karzai is pushing for a deeper defense ties with India and other regional powers as he is defying the US over the bilateral security agreement, the New Delhi and others are encouraging him to sign the security agreement with Washington on time and avoid a possible failure over the pact that is crucial for Afghanistan’s future stability. Ahead of president Karzai’s visit to India, American officials expressed hope that India would encourage Karzai to sign the deal. Given that India is closely cooperating with the United States on Afghanistan, it does not seem to ignore American position on Afghanistan’s security needs – particularly Kabul’s demand for deeper defense ties and supply of military hardware – in any reconsideration of security and defense ties with Kabul.