In a first structured bilateral meeting after they assumed office, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani will hold talks tomorrow to chalk out future engagement plan and share views on key issues of regional security and Taliban.
The visit comes amid Ghani’s pro-Pakistan approach since becoming President last September. His government has not only sent Afghan cadets for military training to Pakistan but was also conducting joint military operations with them on Afghan soil, evoking sharp reactions from his predecessor Hamid Karzai.
The Ghani-Modi meeting will provide an opportunity to the Indian side to recalibrate its approach towards the war-torn country in which it has heavily invested in several projects including in infrastructure and social sectors. India has so far invested over USD 2 billion in reconstruction of Afghanistan.
While there is some uneasiness in New Delhi over Ghani’s Pakistan policy, some feel that even Karzai had started with warming up towards Islamabad and it was only in later years he turned to India for strategic assistance such as military aid including weapons.
Significantly, Ghani has already visited Pakistan after assuming office during which he explored possibility of reviving peace talks with Taliban.
“What we are looking at is also that the Afghan President should tell India how much it values its contribution towards rebuilding Afghanistan. The fact cannot be denied that he is visiting India after his trips to Pakistan and China. We don’t want to be left in cold,” an official said.
During the meeting, India is expected to reiterate its concerns about the security of its interests and nationals.
The Indian side would also like to know what kind of role the new Afghan leadership has in mind for India and its future strategy to contain security threats now that most of NATO combat troops have pulled out of Afghanistan.
Another strategic issue which is expected to figure during talks would be a transit agreement involving India, Afghanistan and Iran using Chabahar, an Iranian port developed with Indian help. This would provide India more sustained access to Afghanistan and thereby, to Central Asia without going through Pakistan.