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India will send defence gear to Afghanistan

| SRIDHAR KUMARASWAMI
Published : Sep 15, 2016, 4:23 am IST
Updated : Sep 15, 2016, 4:23 am IST

In a major shift, India is seriously considering making the transition from being just a development assistance provider to a security provider as well to Afghanistan, as the two countries lashed out

Prime Minister Narendra Mod with President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani. (Photo: PTI)
 Prime Minister Narendra Mod with President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani. (Photo: PTI)

In a major shift, India is seriously considering making the transition from being just a development assistance provider to a security provider as well to Afghanistan, as the two countries lashed out at state-sponsored terror and safe havens for terrorists in a joint statement that did not name Pakistan but left no one in doubt that Islamabad was the target. India has also decided to allocate $1 billion in development assistance to Afghanistan. Sources said that during talks between visiting Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday in New Delhi, India agreed to consider the supply of some of the military gear and platforms on the Afghan defence wishlist that Kabul was pushing for. Officially, however, India is silent on the matter, with the only indication being foreign secretary S. Jaishankar’s comment on Wednesday evening that one can “join the dots” on India’s willingness to consider further capacity-building and capability-building for Afghanistan and the resolve of both nations to strengthen defence cooperation. India has so far supplied only four Russian-origin Mi-25 military helicopters to Afghanistan. Kabul is said to be interested in acquiring military equipment, including artillery, and Russian-origin ammunition and spares from India.

The two countries signed three pacts — a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, an extradition treaty and an agreement on the peaceful uses of outer space. With Pakistan refusing to so far allow the movement of 1.7 lakh tonnes of Indian wheat through its territory to Afghanistan, in spite of a request by New Delhi several months ago, India and Afghanistan discussed the transit issue in a major way at their talks.

More important, the joint statement stated: “The two leaders discussed the regional situation and expressed grave concern at the continued use of terrorism and violence in the region for achieving political objectives. They agreed this phenomenon presented the single biggest threat to peace, stability and progress in the region and beyond. Stressing that elimination of all forms of terrorism, without any discrimination, was essential, they called upon all concerned to put an end to all sponsorship, support, safe havens and sanctuaries to terrorists, including for those who target Afghanistan and India.”

The joint statement added: “The Prime Minister (Modi) ... conveyed India’s readiness to consider further requirements of Afghanistan for capacity and capability building... Both leaders reaffirmed their resolve to counter terrorism and strengthen security and defence cooperation as envisaged in the India-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreement.”

In response to a question on whether India would remain only a development assistance provider to Afghanistan with the completion of several important projects, foreign secretary Jaishankar said, in the clearest official indication so far: “The two dots which I would give you to connect again is the reference to capacity-building and capability-building as well as the specific reference to the strengthening of security and defence cooperation. We just had the Afghan Chief of General Staff recently on a visit.”

India has also agreed to supply world-class and easily affordable medicines to Kabul and to cooperate in solar energy through mutually agreed instruments.

Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi