Afghan leader Hamid Karzai to push for Indian military aid
Afghan President Hamid Karzai will try to secure more military aid in talks with Indian leaders on Tuesday as he looks to beef up his security forces after international troops pull out next year.
Karzai is to hold talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee after accepting an honorary degree on Monday night from the Lovely Professional University in the northern state of Punjab.
The Afghan leader used his acceptance speech to thank India for its support since he came to power in 2001 after the fall of the Taliban.
“India, as a friend of Afghanistan, has made an immense contribution in uplifting its youths,” he was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India news agency.
“India has contributed US$2 billion from the hard-earned money of its taxpayers for the betterment of Afghanistan.”
India’s support for Karzai is a reflection of its desire to ensure that the departure of US and other foreign forces next year does not lead to the return of the radical Islamist Taliban to power in Kabul.
According to his spokesman Aimal Faizi, Karzai will ask for “all kinds of assistance from India in order to strengthen our military and security institutions” during his talks in the capital New Delhi.
An Indian foreign ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said discussions would cover a potential arms deal between the two countries.
“India is ready to meet any request that would strengthen Afghan security institutions,” said the official. “He (Karzai) is visiting India to discuss a potential arms deal.”
India has been training a limited number of Afghan military officers for years at its military institutions, but has provided little weapons assistance except for some vehicles.
Any Indian activity in Afghanistan is known to trigger unease in neighbouring rival Pakistan, which fears losing influence in Afghanistan.
The former Taliban regime was allied with Pakistan and gave refuge to virulently anti-Indian Islamic extremists.
India has been notably cool about US-backed attempts to negotiate a peace settlement with Taliban elements.
Speaking on a visit to Washington in February, Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said New Delhi saw little “dividing line” between al-Qaeda and other militants.
He doubted that “these groups and those who support them have either had an epiphany or made a real strategic reassessment of their objectives.”
Earlier this month, Afghanistan’s ambassador to India said the country needed India’s help with equipment and weapons and was hoping to boost defence ties.
In 2011 India and Afghanistan began a “strategic partnership” aimed at deepening security and economic links.
Karzai is a regular visitor to India and spent time as a student in the northern resort city of Shimla.
He was last in New Delhi in November when he tried to persuade Indian business leaders that Afghanistan was ripe for investment, promising them a “red carpet welcome”.