‘India, Afghanistan closely engaged on beefing up security ties’

Afghanistan has frowned on intelligence agencies of various countries contacting Taliban leaders independently, without taking Kabul into confidence. “This approach takes us nowhere. This has been proved in the past as well,” Afghanistan Ambassador Shaida Abdali said here on Saturday.

Mr. Abdali was responding to questions at the Press Club of India about Taliban leader Abdul Salam Zaeef having been granted a visa to India amidst reports that intelligence agencies wanted to understand the situation in Afghanistan and explore India’s role in the unfolding situation.

The envoy also said India and Afghanistan were closely engaged on beefing up their security ties and at the moment were assessing what assistance could be realistically possible. The Ambassador was appreciative of the Afghan Sandhurst Academy for training army officers and indicated that another training institution of this would be a preferred assistance option from India.

On talks with Taliban, he felt it would be better if Afghanistan’s well wishers backed Kabul and stood united in pursuing a common strategy rather than pursuing different channels of communication. “That’s why talks have not succeeded,” Mr. Abdali said.

Peace talks were moving ahead, he assessed, but not at a satisfactory level. The London trilateral involving Afghanistan, Pakistan and the host country was good in terms of decisions but the challenge was to change those good intentions into action. Afghanistan was looking forward to talks between the High Peace Council and the Taliban facilitated by Pakistan government and also pinned hopes on next month’s trilateral between Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkey.

Describing the transition process as being “on track,” the envoy was concerned about “unrealistic reporting being done by some.” There are 2 crore phone users in Afghanistan in a population of 3 crore and this applies to education as well with 10,000 Afghani students in India alone.

Role of India, Pakistan

The Pakistan’s role in Afghan security was crucial with Mr. Abdali describing it as the “most important role” in accelerating reconciliation talks and bringing about peace in Afghanistan.

The Ambassador lay store on an economic renaissance in Afghanistan and pointed to the important role that India could play. India has won tenders to the Hajigak iron ore mine and has an ambitious $10-billion investment plan for the project besides a railway line that will cut connect Bamyan to Iran’s Chah-bahar port.

India, Iran and Afghanistan are due to sign a trilateral agreement on trade and transit cooperation and Mr. Abdali drew attention to the upcoming business conclave focussing on Afghanistan to be held here next week followed by the next Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process conference in China to suggest that there were many more business opportunities than mineral extraction. Afghanistan had already done a trial run by sending 15 containers of dry fruits through Chah-bahar port to India.