Abdullah urges India to continue good work in Afghanistan

Discussion in 'Foreign Relations' started by ejazr, Apr 25, 2011.

  1. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    Abdullah urges India to continue good work in Afghanistan

    Afghanistan's former foreign minister and opposition leader Dr Abdullah Abdullah has appreciated India's role in post-Taliban period and said that it should continue with its good work in his war-torn country.

    Currently on a visit to the US to familiarize leaders, officials and think-tanks here about the ground realities in his country and its neighborhood, Abdullah said unlike others India has a clear defined goals in Afghanistan.

    "India has defined its goal that a stable Afghanistan with a functioning system, representative government would be in their interest. That is why they have been helping us in development, reconstruction, rehabilitation, capacity building and many things. So India's role is widely appreciated in Afghanistan," Abdullah told PTI.

    "Continue the good work," Abdullah said, when asked what else India can do in Afghanistan, besides what it has been doing so far. Chairman of the Coalition for Hope and Change, Abdullah addressed more than a dozen think-tanks, besides meeting top US officials and Congressional leaders here.

    "Indian support for Afghanistan is based on the priorities defined by Afghans and the Government of Afghanistan. Also Indian aid has gone directly to the projects, which people can see the benefits of it. It is not just the quantity, but also the quality of assistance which makes it significant," he said.

    Abdullah, who lost to Karzai in the 2009 presidential elections, said the purpose of his trip is to familiarize the opinion builders and policy makers in Washington about the ground realities in Afghanistan.

    He also addressed the World Islamic Forum Conference held in Washington. "The expectations of the people of Afghanistan are that the support from India continues until Afghanistan is stable. Afghanistan has a system, until it has a functioning system for its own people and in creating of an environment which will not allow terrorism and extremism to take roots," Abdullah said.

    Abdullah said that there has always been perception about Pakistani claims that India is indulging in anti- Pakistan activities inside Afghanistan, but this perception is far away from reality.

    "They have always raised their concerns. That continues to be a topic of discussion at every meeting which Afghans are having with our Pakistani neighbors," he said.

    "We have not seen any sign of their concern that India might use Afghanistan as a launching pad for activities against Pakistan," Abdullah said.

    Afghanistan, he said, is obliged to have good ties with all its neighbors and all countries in the region.

    Abdullah said no country has the right to veto with respect to Afghanistan's foreign policy.
     
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  3. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    Is India's influence waning in Afghanistan?

    NEW DELHI: Afghanistan is slipping out of India's sphere of influence. As a beleaguered Hamid Karzai, president of Afghanistan, looks for a way to achieve peace in his country when the US and other international forces draw down, there are signs that India might be kept at a distance.

    In an effort to regain Indian influence, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh plans to travel to Kabul soon. Afghanistan is the only other neighboring country Singh travels to (apart from Bhutan) -- a sign of the importance this strife-torn country enjoys in India.

    India wants to "do more" in the security sector in Afghanistan. While this does not mean boots on the ground, India wants to involve itself more in the building up of security institutions in Afghanistan. For the past few years India has been training almost 200 Afghan officers in Indian military institutions. India would extend this to training the police services. In the past, Afghanistan would consciously rebuff Pakistan's demands to train Afghan army officers. India is now more open about its offer, but Afghanistan may be a lot more circumspect about accepting it.

    For many years, Afghanistan had asked India to involve itself in improving its fragile security structure by training its security services. India held back because it believed Pakistan would freak. The US, sources said, too actively discouraged India venturing into this area. As it was, Pakistan would boil over at the very mention of India's consulates. In fact, it took a long while to convince Islamabad that India had only five consulates and not 24 as they alleged -- one of Pakistan's top demands from Karzai has been the shutting down of two of India's consulates in Kandahar and Jalalabad.

    As the Afghanistan conflict moves to a decisive phase with the US intent on beginning a pullout in July, 2011, Karzai, like everybody else in the region is looking at the day after. Karzai has been pushing a reconciliation programme with the Taliban, but this will not go anywhere without the active participation of Pakistan. Almost all Afghan Taliban leadership -- at least the ones that matter like the Haqqanis -- are under Pakistani control.

    The US is cool to the reconciliation bid, and would rather keep Pakistan out of it. Washington has asked Saudi Arabia to intercede, but Taliban's Al Qaeda affiliation continues to be a problem for Riyadh. The British on the other hand, according to sources involved in the exercise, are actively backing Pakistan's mediation with the Taliban. Karzai, under pressure, is apparently convinced that doing a deal with Pakistan, whom he had opposed for providing sanctuaries to the Taliban, could provide a measure of security that the US and the west may not be able to. It was the start of a rapprochement with Pakistan when Karzai famously referred to the Af-Pak relationship of conjoined twins.

    The Afghanistan dilemma will feature prominently in India's conversations with Marc Grossman, US' new Af-Pak special envoy this week. India's view is the international community should help build institutions in Afghanistan, rather than pushing for a reconciliation and exit. But India is equally aware that western countries want out.

    Last week Pakistan showed its determination to drive the exercise on its own terms, during a high profile visit to Kabul by PM Yousuf Raza Gilani, army chief Gen Kayani and Dg-ISI Shuja Pasha. Last year, Pakistan arrested Mullah Baradar of the Taliban's Quetta shura just when his talks with Karzai had entered a decisive phase.

    Pakistan is running with its own agenda even as its relationship with the US heads south. At this point, as Karzai sees it, Pakistan holds the cards. But Pakistan will expect him to pay a price -- which might be a gradual distancing with India.

    India will remain in Afghanistan in a big way -- building infrastructure and capacity. Fifteen Indian companies are considering forming a consortium -- with government help -- to bid for Afghanistan's biggest iron ore mine in Hagijak. But in the power play for influence, India will have to move fast to counter a Pakistan-Taliban onslaught.

    The message for Karzai will be that Afghanistan needs a fully trained security force to take over when the wet leaves. Second, by supping with the Taliban, Afghanistan could be opening itself to a future where the Taliban's forceful ideology could take over. Pakistan would then enjoy disproportionate influence in Afghanistan, which would be against India's interests.
     

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