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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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Currently the Indian training of Afghans here is extremely limited: Less than a dozen a year, according to analysts. General Chopra says India has the capacity to train more than 20,000 Afghan soldiers a year if called upon. Regimental centers across India could each take on a few thousand “easily.”

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“If you spread these guys around … we have the capability, the capacity, and we can do it at a very low price,” says Chopra.

But any expansion of training would be gradual, say Chopra and other experts.

“It’s not like they would be taking them in the thousands,” says Mohan Guruswamy, chairman of the Center for Policy Alternatives in New Delhi. “The capacity building would be restricted mostly to officers because that would imply knowledge of English.”

What now, Pakistan?

The deal marks a break from Karzai’s efforts during the past year to enlist Pakistan’s friendship and support for a peace settlement.

It comes on the heels of the recent assassination of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani. Afghan officials have indicated Pakistan was behind the killing and not a nation interested in Afghan peace. Karzai's government submitted its evidence to Pakistan to back up the claim.

“Pakistan strongly rejects the baseless allegations,” reads a response from Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “The so-called evidence given to the Pakistan Embassy in Kabul is actually a confessional statement of an Afghan national Hamidullah Akundzadeh accused of master-minding the assassination.”

The statement goes on to say the information will be looked into before reiterating that Pakistan condemns the killing and is committed to Afghan peace.

Some Afghan analysts are doubtful that today’s deal with India will do much to pressure Pakistan.

“Afghanistan is holding an empty gun here,” says Daoud Sultanzoy, a former Member of Parliament in Afghanistan. “It seems like Afghanistan is using this – probably with acquiescence of Western countries and India – to put pressure on Pakistan. And Pakistan is used to these empty and hollow pressures.”

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