India has a critical role to play in Afghanistan as it is the most important partner of the war-torn country in the region, the commander of the US-Nato forces in Kabul has said.
“I think India’s role in Afghanistan is critical. India is a very close partner to Afghanistan, and from an economic perspective and from a trade perspective, probably their most important partner in the region right now,” General Joseph Dunford.
“They (India) are not providing lethal aid to Afghanistan, as a result of the dynamics in the region. Pakistan would certainly be concerned with that,” Dunford said in response to a question during a Congressional hearing on Afghanistan.
Dunford said India can play a very important role, diplomatically and economically in particular.
“In fact they are doing that. They have a very close relationship with the Afghan people and even with the Afghan security forces,” he said.
“They have assisted in the sense of providing some nonlethal support, helicopters and parts, and some training that will help our efforts to grow Afghan security forces. So I think India is a very important partner in that regard,” Dunford said.
Dunford also said the relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan is going to be important for the US to achieve American ends.
“Over the last year I’ve been encouraged by a couple of things. At the political level, Prime Minister Sharif and President Karzai have met four times. That’s probably unprecedented over the last several years in terms of engagement at that level,” he said.
“We’ve also had an effective military-to-military relationship, between the Afghans and the Pakistanis that we’ve tried to facilitate. It’s been in fits and starts, frankly, in 2013 for a variety of reasons.
“But I met about six weeks ago with the chief of the Army staff in Pakistan, General Raheel Sharif. He’s committed to improving the relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan,” he said. Dunford said he is encouraged by the conversation that’s focused on two particular areas.
“First and foremost, the ministers of interior have met to discuss the issue of extremism, and also the broader border management issues that start with the political, economic and the security issues,” he said.
“I wouldn’t tell you that we’re weeks or months away from a true partnership between the two countries. But I think we have got to the point where they recognise that it’s in their common interest to deal with the threat of extremism and to improve the regime along the border,” the general said.