Updated: September 27, 2017 7:04:45 am
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday ruled out the deployment of Indian troops to Afghanistan even as she renewed New Delhi’s commitment to provide development assistance to the war-torn country.
“There shall not be any boots on the ground from India,” Sitharaman said at a joint press conference with US Defence Secretary James Mattis. “We have built dams, hospitals and roads; that has been India’s contribution and that will continue,” she said, responding to a question on whether India would contribute troops to Afghanistan as part of US President Donald Trump’s Afghanistan policy.
India will also enhance its efforts to train Afghan soldiers in counter-terrorism and help build its police force, she said.
Although India has never offered to send troops to Afghanistan, there has been speculation following Trump’s call last month for greater Indian involvement. India has already contributed $3 billion as developmental aid, for building roads, highways, power transmission lines and dams.
“We applaud India’s invaluable contributions to Afghanistan and welcome further efforts to promote Afghanistan’s democracy, stability and security,” Mattis said in his statement.
Sitharaman also raised the issue of terrorist havens in Pakistan. “The same forces that find havens in Pakistan hit New York and Mumbai. My request is that Secretary Mattis speaks out when he visits Pakistan,” she said.
“The situation in our neighbourhood and the growing menace of cross-border terrorism were discussed in depth. There is growing convergence in the approaches of both our countries on this issue. We both recognise the importance of holding those who use terrorism as an instrument of state policy to account, and to dismantle the infrastructure that supports terrorism,” said Sitharaman.
“There can be no tolerance of terrorist safe havens. As global leaders, India and the US resolve to work together to eradicate this scourge,” said Mattis
Without naming China, the two sides “discussed the issues relating to maritime security in the Indian Ocean and the broader Asia-Pacific Region as well as regional connectivity issues.”
“India supports the freedom of navigation, over-flight and unimpeded lawful commerce. We also believe that disputes should be resolved through peaceful means and in accordance with the universally recognised principles of international law,” said Sitharaman,
“We value India’s leadership across the Indo-Pacific. India has a vital role to play in supporting South East Asia’s institutions — particularly ASEAN — and in building partner capacity across the region,” said Mattis.
In response to a question about North Korea, Mattis said, “Our goal is to solve this diplomatically… We maintain the capability to deter North Korea’s most dangerous threats, but we will also back up our diplomats in a manner to keep this as long as possible in the diplomatic realm”.
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