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HindustanTimes Tue,16 Sep 2014

Delhi keeps watch on US troop pullout from Afghan

Shishir Gupta, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, November 30, 2013
First Published: 00:21 IST(30/11/2013) | Last Updated: 01:36 IST(30/11/2013)

With the US troop pullout from Kabul only months away, India is adopting a multi-pronged strategy to deal with the emerging security situation.

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It involves strengthening counter-insurgency grid in Kashmir, improving coverage of Pakistan and continuation of support of education, trade, road and health infrastructure projects to Afghan people.

In light of President Hamid Karzai’s forthcoming three day visit to India from December 13, the Indian posture to unfolding Afghan situation was discussed threadbare among senior government officials last week with ministry of external affairs, defence ministry and home ministry putting across their point of view. This view is expected to be taken to the political leadership to help make final decisions.

While India expects US to maintain potent strike capability in Kabul even after the pull-out, it wants, as always, to reach out to Afghan people including the influential Pashtun community and maintain its goodwill through community specific projects.

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That New Delhi allowed former Taliban Ambassador to Pakistan Mullah Abdul Salaam Zaeef to travel to Goa this month is an indicator that India wants to keep all options open and does not see any direct conflict of interest with ultra conservative Islamic movement.

Post US pullout, there are indications that Pakistan Army and ISI may push the infiltration peddle in Kashmir but at the same time ensure that it does not invite Indian retaliation and keep the militants in control.

Senior officials feel that India will feel the cross border terror heat from terrorist groups based in Punjab and Khyber-Paktunkhwa region as this is the catchment area for groups such as Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Al Badr.

Given that Pakistan may encourage violence in Kashmir keeping the 2014 Assembly elections in mind, New Delhi is all set to beef up the counter-insurgency grid by moving some 20 battalions of Assam Rifles from North-East to form the second line of defence behind Army deployed at the Line of Control.

The proposal to move Assam Rifles into counter-insurgency force comes as the government is expected to clear the raising of 41 battalions of BSFat the cost of Rs. 5,000 crore for deployment along the 1654 kilometer long India-Myanmar border.

This proposal is currently with the Cabinet Committee on Security and is expected to cleared perhaps in the next meeting.

The deployment of BSF on border with Myanmar is expected to free some 20 battalions of Assam Rifles,which will be used to strengthen the counter-insurgency grid in J&K and also help in furthering democratic process in state Assembly polls. “ The total militant cadre strength is currently below 300 in J&K. If we can effectively block infiltration across LoC, then the impact of 2014 pull-out will be minimal. But there is no shortage of recruits in Punjab and KP in case Pak Army wants to ratchet up violence in Kashmir.


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