National Security Adviser Ajit Doval visited Afghanistan on Monday, days after US President Donald Trump said that he has started to develop a much better relationship with Pakistan — much to the discomfiture of many in New Delhi and Kabul.
Doval’s schedule was kept under wraps to avert any incident — it was announced only late on Monday, after the visit. Sources said that US Defense Secretary James Mattis was the target of a failed rocket attack near a key Afghanistan airport in September, although the attack occurred after he had left the airport.
Post-visit, Kabul and New Delhi said in a joint statement, “Both sides welcomed the opportunities created by the new US strategy for bringing peace and security in Afghanistan.” This is a reference to Trump administration’s strategy, which has prompted closer security and development cooperation between India and Afghanistan.
The statement said that both sides exchanged views on various facets of the bilateral strategic partnership and regional and global issues of mutual interest.
The statement said, “They emphasised that bilateral and sincere regional cooperation is important for peace, security and stability in the region. Both sides welcomed the opportunities created by the new US strategy for bringing peace and security in Afghanistan. It was agreed to further strengthen strategic dialogue and consultations for achieving the shared objectives.”
Doval called on Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah. Afghanistan NSA Hanif Atmar hosted a working lunch for Doval, where Ministers of Defence, Interior, NDS, Chief of Army Staff, Independent Directorate of Local Governance and senior officials of the National Security Council were also present.
Doval’s visit comes close on the heels of Mattis’s recent testimony to the US Senate after he visited India and Afghanistan, where he said India is committed to not only continuing but also broadening its development efforts in Afghanistan.
While announcing the new policy for Afghanistan, Trump had also praised India for its development efforts in the war-torn country. Mattis had said he believes that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts will actually be enhanced in the months and years ahead, based on the sense that “we are fully” committed. “He can now commit more himself to the stability and prosperity of South Asia. It’s in all their best interests,” he had said in response to a question from American Senator Joni Ernest.
Mattis had also acknowledged that Pakistan does not like Indian investment in Afghanistan.