India has sided with Afghanistan in its ongoing dispute over a security pact that would allow a smaller contingent of U.S. troops to stay back after the bulk of western forces withdraws from the country next year.
“He [ President Hamid Karzai] will do whatever is best for the people of Afghanistan and, in accordance with India’s approach to Afghanistan, we will support it,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin told newspersons after a meeting between Mr. Karzai and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here on Friday.
“Yes, it was discussed because India and Afghanistan both see the BSA [bilateral security agreement] as important for the security and stability of Afghanistan. Our approach has always been one of not being prescriptive, intrusive or judgemental. And therefore this is the paradigm through which we approach this matter. We are confident that President Karzai is a wise and sagacious leader. As a close and steadfast friend of Afghanistan and in accordance with the Indian approach to Afghanistan, we will support it,” said Mr. Akbaruddin.
Both the Afghan President and U.S. officials have exchanged strong words over the timing of signing the BSA. Mr. Karzai wants it inked by his successor after next year’s elections, in which he will not be eligible to contest, while the U.S. has threatened to walk out if it is not done immediately.
“Aggressive rhetoric won’t work. We are not a nation that is known for giving into intimidation. If they have not recognised this, they should; it will be good for them to recognise. We will sign it when we feel sure that our signature will bring peace and security,” Mr. Karzai told NDTV in an interview.
U.S. Special Representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan James Dobbin told a Senate Committee that he hoped India would help persuade Mr. Karzai to ink the agreement. But the Indian response appears to have belied those hopes.
Apart from security issues, the other part of Mr. Karzai’s visit is economic. Having wrapped up the official part of his visit with meetings with External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and President Pranab Mukherjee, Mr. Karzai will meet businessmen and all three chambers of commerce and industry in Pune on Saturday after holding a news conference and a meeting with think tanks here.
India is planning a major game-changing project in Afghanistan which will start taking shape once its Parliament approves new mining laws. Mr. Karzai feels Indian businessmen are shy and do not come forward like Chinese traders. “Even South Africa has invested in Afghanistan. I would again request, rather urge our Indian partners in business to come forward and invest,” Mr. Karzai told NDTV.
The major investment planned by India is in Hajigak mines, said to be Asia’s biggest untapped deposits of iron ore. “India has to just come forward and get the deal through,” Mr. Karzai has said.
According to Afghanistan Ambassador Shaida Abdali, Mr. Karzai’s focus is on three issues — the state of play on the BSA, the peace process and then the transition process and discuss the way ahead.