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Slew of pacts under discussion ahead of Ghani visit

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani will be in India from April 27 to 29.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani will be in India from April 27 to 29.  

In a sign of a close relationship, he will be staying at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Agreements on mutual legal assistance, motor vehicles movement and between chambers of commerce are under discussion ahead of Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani’s visit to India from April 27 to 29.

The Afghan President, on his first state visit to India, is expected to meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 28, when India will announce the handing over of three Cheetal helicopters. In a sign of the close relationship between the two countries, President Ghani will be staying at Rashtrapati Bhavan as a guest of President Pranab Mukherjee.

While the mutual legal assistance agreement will allow India and Afghanistan to cooperate on criminal and civil matters, the motor vehicles agreement will allow Indian and Afghan vehicles to traverse each other’s countries.

Pressuring Pakistan

The motor vehicle agreement will only exist on paper until Pakistan also signs similar treaties with India and Afghanistan. The agreement is being seen as a way of putting pressure on Pakistan to expedite the process. Pakistan had held up a SAARC agreement on the issue in November last year, citing objections from its truckers’ lobby to free access for vehicles.

India and Afghanistan are also keen to push Pakistan to allow trade between the two countries to transit through Pakistan, according to the Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA), while increasing bilateral trade through other routes.

Transit trade agreement

Afghanistan is also hopeful of signing a trilateral transit trade agreement with Iran and India “soon,” once India completes its ongoing project to refurbish the Chabahar port, Ambassador to India Shaida Abdali said recently.

During Mr. Ghani’s visit, India may also step up cooperation on defence training by increasing the number of slots for Afghan National Army (ANA) officers and soldiers, according to unconfirmed reports. Since the 2011 Strategic Partnership was signed, India has regularly trained Afghan army personnel, and about 300 defence cadets are presently undergoing training here.

As The Hindu had reported earlier this week, the three Cheetal helicopters India is giving to Afghanistan have been built by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and can be used for personnel transport, casualty evacuations, reconnaissance missions and support and rescue operations. An earlier request from Afghanistan to fit these with Light Machine Guns was, however, declined as India has avoided supporting offensive operations in Afghanistan or providing the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) with “lethal weaponry.” Even so, the aircraft is much needed by Afghanistan for its ability to handle mountainous terrain.

In a testimony to the internal security committee of the parliament in Kabul last week, Chief of Army Staff General Sher Mohammad Karimi had said that his army’s fast depleting and “few aircraft” were responsible for a sharp spike in civilian and military casualties this year.

During his visit to Delhi, President Ghani will deliver a lecture, entitled “The (re)birth of the Asian Continental Economy: Regional cooperation and Afghanistan’s cooperative advantage.” Analysts say he will also seek to address concerns in New Delhi that Afghanistan’s new government has taken a more distant view of its relations with India, vis-à-vis Pakistan and China, both countries Mr. Ghani has visited already.

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Printable version | Apr 4, 2020 10:44:11 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/slew-of-pacts-under-discussion-ahead-of-ghani-visit/article7131002.ece

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