Pressuring Pakistan, Afghanistan's Karzai signs deal with India
Afghanistan signed a strategic partnership with India today that allows arms transfers and military training in India. The move puts pressure on Pakistan to rein in militants.
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President Hamid Karzai arrived in India to ink the deal after indicating he was losing faith in his olive branches to Pakistan.
The strategic partnership, the first such official deal between the two countries, allows arms transfers and formalizes the ability for Afghanistan to seek Indian military training. A small number of Afghan officers already come to train here; the agreement would allow Afghanistan to scale that up if wanted.
Pakistan has made it clear throughout the past decade that it fears “encirclement” by any strong alliance between India and Afghanistan. Today’s agreement allows Karzai to brandish the threat of greater military cooperation with India if cooperation with Pakistan toward peace remains in question.
Despite warm and historically deep ties with Kabul, New Delhi has limited its engagement to development work and kept its boots off Afghan soil. That won’t change: India’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Gautum Mukhopadhyay, told reporters in New Delhi that with regards to the military training, “we are doing everything here.”
What's in the agreement?
The strategic agreement leaves out specifics.
“India agrees to assist, as mutually determined, in the training, equipping and capacity building programs for Afghan National Security Forces,” reads the agreement. It also carefully notes that the partnership “is not directed against any other State or group of States.”
“It’s ongoing, there’s nothing new about it,” said Ambassador Mukhopadhyay. But the agreement does open up an “incremental” and “additional” level of cooperation based on what the Afghans want and the Indians can deliver, he added.
An Afghan official said that the document allows Afghanistan to ask for more military aid from India. “We may not need until 2014 because NATO is already with us. But this document allows us, shows a green light,” the official said.
The deal reflects the political realities closing in around Karzai: His external backers, the Americans, are heading for the exits by 2014, and many of his internal backers who are ethnic minorities have lost all patience with his outreach to Pakistan.
Enter India, a country that views Afghanistan as a historical friend and a gateway to markets and resources in Central Asia.
India and Karzai share an enemy in the Taliban. India also has expertise in training armies from developing nations.
“It is easier for us to train these guys than for Western guys to train them. We understand people who are less educated and come from a rough background,” says Ramesh Chopra, a retired Indian general.