iconimg Monday, March 30, 2015

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, May 16, 2013
As plans to reduce Western troops gather pace in Afghanistan, the war-torn country on Thursday hoped to establish enhanced defence ties with India, including the supply of lethal and non-lethal military equipment. Kabul’s demand also comes just ahead of President Hamid Karzai will visit to India next week from May 21-22.

Asked about what kind of defence assistance Afghanistan was looking to get from India, Afghanistan’s ambassador to India Shaida Mohammad Abdali said, “The partnership agreement does not distinguish between lethal and non-lethal (military equipment). We have talked about security and defence cooperation.”

Abdali also talked about interest in Indian Army training for troops.

“Other assistance in small stages is most welcome... but we would like to go beyond the current trend of cooperation between the two countries in the defence sector,” he added.

At present, India provides training to some Afghan Army officers. Pakistan has been wary of India’s role in Afghanistan and any move to step up defence ties would add to scepticism.

This demand is also coming at a time, when Pakistan-Afghanistan ties are frayed. India has followed a policy of keeping the military engagement to a minimum with Afghanistan in the past.

“It is a critical time for all of us and we need to do more than what we are doing right now,” he said. 

The Afghan envoy also welcomed India’s recent commitment of upgrading the strategically important Chabahar port in Iran that would help India get access to land-locked and resource- rich countries. An estimated $100 million (approximately R548.7 crore) is required for the modernisation of the port.

“We would like to see the conclusion of the agreement on the Chabahar port,” Abdali said.

“We are very happy that this is gathering momentum. We hope that we sign the trilateral trade agreement among India, Afghanistan and Iran as quickly as possible. We are optimistic after Indian external affairs minister Salman Khurshid’s visit to Iran.”

Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) special representative for Afghanistan Vygaudas Ušackas, who is presently visiting India, also sought Indian government’s active cooperation in the development of the country.

Ušackas said the EU is committed to long-term association with the development of the region, which became centre of US’ ‘War on Terrorism’ after the September 11, 2001, attacks there.