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‘New U.S. policy can boost Indo-Afghan security ties’

Better prospects:India-Afghanistan ties have always had a security element, says Abdullah Abdullah.R. V. Moorthy

Better prospects:India-Afghanistan ties have always had a security element, says Abdullah Abdullah.R. V. Moorthy  

Relationship can be trilateral, says Abdullah Abdullah

The new U.S. policy is an “opportunity” for India-U.S.-Afghanistan cooperation on security as well as development issues, said Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.

“[India-Afghanistan] cooperation had a security element throughout, like the helicopters India transferred, or training [of] Afghan troops. What was added to that was the announcement of the U.S. policy, which is an opportunity take this relationship to the trilateral level as well. So yes, I do see this opportunity,” Mr. Abdullah told The Hindu in an interview during his visit to Delhi.

When asked about Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s statement this week that there would be “no Indian boots in Afghanistan,” Mr. Abdullah said that was because no request had been made by Afghanistan for Indian troops.

“It is not that if we raise demands, India would say this is [impossible]. But no [demand for troops] has been raised as such by us so far. We respect India’s position and the cooperation will continue in all walks of life,” he said.

Trilateral cooperation

Mr. Abdullah’s statement indicates that India, the U.S. and Afghanistan have been considering other ways of boosting the trilateral partnership in the security sphere. Sources said a proposal for India and the U.S. to jointly train Afghan special forces had been discussed, although no decision has been made in this regard. Earlier this year India and the U.S. began a pilot project to train peacekeeping troops from 16 African countries under a UN project.

Officials have also spoken of Indian cooperation with Russia to refurbish Soviet- era aircraft, as well as repair the four helicopters donated by India last year, so they can be used until the Afghan air force transitions to newer NATO hardware.

Significantly Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy on Afghanistan was also in New Delhi for talks during the week which saw the visits of U.S. Defence Secretary James Mattis and Mr. Abdullah.

However the Afghan Chief Executive dismissed the timing of the visits as nothing more than a coincidence, and said there was a need for “interactions with all countries” rather than a competitive “great game” being played between U.S.-Europe against Russia-China-Pakistan-Iran in the region

“All our partners may not agree on how to approach a solution to the problems of Afghanistan. I feel that we need to bring back the [global] consensus that existed in 2001 [post fall of Taliban] that was a very broad one,” he said, referring to the global coalition against terrorism announced at the time.

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