May 23, 2013 12:38:55 am
As Afghanistan readies for large transitions,India must be generous and agile in its response
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzais visit to India,his second in six months,came at a critical time for the region. With the clock ticking in Kabul,Afghanistan is bracing for a series of transitions,beginning in 2014 the withdrawal of US troops and transfer of the security burden to Afghan forces of doubtful capability,the likely end of Karzais presidency once his second term is over,and the uncertain prospects of a political reconciliation between the Afghan state and the Taliban. Undoubtedly,Karzai came with hopes of eliciting greater support and a deeper commitment from Delhi.
Primarily,Karzais expectations were for an increase in defence assistance from India,including lethal and non-lethal weapons. On Wednesday,he disclosed that he had indeed presented Kabuls wishlist to Delhi,while emphasising Afghanistans need for as much defence equipment and training as it can get. There is no plan for stationing Indian troops on the ground. But Afghanistan will welcome Indian instructors once the Sandhurst-type military academy is established. India already provides limited military assistance to Afghanistan,mainly in the form of training Afghan security personnel,under the bilateral strategic partnership agreement of 2011. This is besides Indias investment of $2 billion in Afghan reconstruction building infrastructure,such as roads,highways,hospitals and electricity projects as well as assistance in rebuilding the countrys police,judiciary and diplomatic services.
While Delhi has offered to enhance its contribution to Afghan reconstruction,it must move forward more carefully on arms supply. India needs to balance its stakes in Afghanistan against the potential reaction from Pakistan and the NATO. The Pakistan army is indispensable for peace in Afghanistan it is also the problem. Moreover,Karzais visit to India coincided with increased skirmishes along the Durand Line,in which an Afghan policeman was killed earlier this month,while a daring raid last month,allegedly by a Pakistan-aided Taliban band,wiped out a unit of Afghan soldiers. India must work hard and keep pace as the situation changes,while nudging Karzai on the development of the Chabahar port in Iran,crucial for routing Indian shipments to Afghanistan. Recognising the implications for its own security if Afghanistan were to collapse into chaos again,India must keep engaging the countrys neighbours to facilitate peace after the transition. The India-China dialogue on the matter welcomed by Karzai is a vital part of that larger process.
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