Indian role in Afghanistan needs to be spelt out

WASHINGTON: The United States urged India on Wednesday to be transparent with Pakistan about their activities in Afghanistan.

At a briefing at the Pentagon, spokesman Geoff Morrell also discounted Indian role in training Afghan security forces.

The Pentagon press secretary said that US Defence Secretary Robert Gates had discussed the Afghan situation with Indian leaders, including the issues that concerned Pakistan, when he visited New Delhi last week.

“We did discuss Afghanistan with the government in Delhi and discussed the need for the Indian government to be as transparent as they can be with the Pakistani government about their activities in Afghanistan,” he said.

Asked if the United States would like India to train Afghan security forces, Mr Morrell said that the international community was not contemplating any such role for India.

“They clearly have contributed much in the monetary sense, financial support to the government in Afghanistan and that is greatly appreciated by us, by the Afghans and, I think, by the international community,” said the Pentagon spokesman.

“But beyond that, I think, you saw him (Secretary Gates) speak to this talk of perhaps the Indians providing training to Afghan forces. And that is not something that we, that I think, anybody is pursuing at this point.”

Secretary Gates told reporters in New Delhi last week that India and Pakistan had deep suspicious about each other’s activities in Afghanistan and stressed the need for “full transparency”.

Pakistan complains that India is using its influence in Afghanistan to stir trouble in Balochistan and had also provided weapons and financial assistance to the militants in Fata.

Islamabad also sees India’s strong presence in Afghanistan as a threat to its own security, fearing that New Delhi is trying to bring pressure on Pakistan from both its eastern and western borders.

Initially, US policy-makers ignored Islamabad’s complaints. Instead, they continued to remind Pakistani officials that the militants, and not India, were their main enemy and they should focus on fighting the militants.

But attitudes in Washington began to change after a realisation that US efforts to persuade Pakistan to stop fearing India had not worked. In recent congressional hearings such senior US military officials as Admiral Mike Mullen and Gen David Petraeus admitted that Washington needed to be receptive to Islamabad’s concerns.

In a report sent to the White House in September, Gen Stanley McChrystal, who commands US and Nato force in Afghanistan, warned that “Indian political and economic influence is increasing in Afghanistan” and “the current Afghan government is perceived by Islamabad to be pro-Indian”.

The general also warned that “increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani counter measures”.

The McChrystal report also noted: “Stability in Pakistan is essential, not only in its own right, but also to enable progress in Afghanistan. While the existence of safe havens in Pakistan doesn’t guarantee ISAF failure, Afghanistan does require Pakistani cooperation and action against violent militancy, particularly against those groups active in Afghanistan.By Anwar Iqbal.

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