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India prepares for a bigger role in Afghanistan

An official said New Delhi is receptive, but watching the evolution of the current phase of US-Pakistan relations closely.

india Updated: Oct 29, 2017 22:48 IST
Shishir Gupta
Shishir Gupta
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Afghanistan,India,Mohammad Ashraf Ghani
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Afghanistan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on October 24, 2017.(Mohd Zakir/HT Photo)

The US administration has offered India a greater role in the development of infrastructure, economy and security apparatus in Afghanistan, acknowledging the potential role New Delhi can play, a top Indian official has said.

According to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, all past hurdles imposed by the US at the behest of Pakistan against India playing a significant role in Afghanistan’s rebuilding have been removed and New Delhi has the complete support of Washington.

The move also has the support of Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah, he added.

New Delhi is receptive, but watching the evolution of the current phase of US-Pakistan relations closely, the official said.

US President Donald Trump spoke of the potential role India could play in Afghanistan in his August 21 speech at Fort Myer.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson echoed this in his October 18 Washington speech.

In the past month, US Defence Secretary James Mattis and Tillerson have visited both New Delhi and Kabul, and Ghani and Abdullah have been in New Delhi, and India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, the point man of the Modi government’s Afghan policy, has gone to Kabul.

On October 24, Tillerson also delivered a tough message to Pakistan on eradicating safe havens for terror groups. During this time, the three sides discussed the pros and cons of bringing the Taliban on the negotiating table and the need to remove the strategic depth provided to this fundamentalist group by Pakistan.

There have been detailed conversations between Doval, Afghan NSA Hanif Atmar, Ghani, Abdullah, Mattis and Tillerson on the timing of the talks while continuing to put military pressure on Taliban. While New Delhi has made it clear that it will not send troops to Kabul, it will support building of capability and muscle of the Afghan army and police. India will also increase connectivity within Afghanistan through roads, inland ports and telecommunication services, even in areas where it was previously prevented from doing so due to objections from Islamabad.

First Published: Oct 29, 2017 22:48 IST