India has reiterated its commitment to expand security and defence ties with Afghanistan, which is on the throes of an uneasy democratic transition, and will root for Shanghai Cooperation Organisation playing a greater role in ‘stabilising’ that region.
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj met Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday in Kabul, offering Narendra Modi government’s hands of partnership, a day before she goes to attend the SCO summit in Dushanbe, capital of Tajikistan.
Swaraj and Karzai held a wide-ranging talks on political and security situation, factoring in both Nato drawdown later this year and the US-Afghanistan security pact. The minister also inaugurated a new US$ 40 million Indian embassy building in Kabul.
“This is critical decade of transformation for Afghanistan. India will always be Afghanistan’s first strategic partner and we will always share Afghan people’s vision. India is prepared to do whatever is possible, whichever capabilities and means, to work with Afghan government and its people to realise this vision,” Swaraj said.
The SCO summit on September 11 and 12 is expected to take a call on adding new full-term members. It would make the entry of India and Pakistan as a counterweight to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) possible. SCO is a Eurasian political, economic and military organisation founded in 2001 in Shanghai by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Afghanistan, India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan are currently observers in the group.
India has invested over US$ 2 billion in the reconstruction of Afghanistan and trained many Afghan officials. As NATO forces prepare to withdraw from the country, India is concerned about the security situation there.
Whatever happens in Afghanistan has a direct national security implication for India. And India sees SCO, where most neighbours of Afghanistan are members, an ideal regional architecture to stabilise the region. “Many SCO members are direct stake-holders on Afghanistan as they share borders with the country. So they have a common interest in peace and stability of Afghanistan," said an official.