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India signs agreement to train Afghanistan police

LiveMint logoLiveMint 28-09-2017 Elizabeth Roche

New Delhi: India and Afghanistan on Thursday moved to deepen their ties with a pact on New Delhi training Afghan police, the first line of resistance against a resurgent Taliban in the war-torn country.

The agreement came after talks in New Delhi between visiting Afghan chief executive Abdullah Abdullah and Indian leaders including Prime minister Narendra Modi, President Ram Nath Kovind and foreign minister Sushma Swaraj.

“Prime Minister reiterated India’s commitment to extend full support to Afghanistan’s efforts for building a peaceful, united, prosperous, inclusive and democratic Afghanistan,” an Indian statement said after talks between Modi and Abdullah. “The two leaders exchanged views on the security environment in Afghanistan and the extended region, and, in this context, agreed to continue close coordination and cooperation,” it said. “An MoU (memorandum of understanding) for Technical Cooperation on Police Training and Development was exchanged in the presence of the two leaders at the conclusion of the meeting,” it added.

It follows a reworking of the US Afghan strategy, outlined by US President Donald Trump last month in which he called on India to play a larger role in stabilizing Afghanistan and berated Pakistan for providing a safe haven for groups like the Taliban that are targeting US forces.

Abdullah’s visit also comes within days of a trip to India by US defence secretary James Mattis to discuss the revised American strategy for Afghanistan, among other issues.

The Afghan chief executive, who was to arrive in New Delhi on Wednesday afternoon in time to inaugurate an Afghan investment fair, reached India on Thursday morning after the closure of the Kabul airport following a rocket attack, claimed by the Islamic State and the Taliban—an indication of the security challenges facing the country despite a 16-year-long war to defeat the Taliban.

On Wednesday, an Indian government statement had said the pact “will help in capacity building of Afghanistan National Police and improving the security apparatus in the region.”

Analysts say one of the challenges faced by Afghanistan is equipping its security personnel with the skills required to take on the Taliban. India is indicating that it can help Afghanistan by strengthening its security structures, said Harsh V. Pant, a professor of international relations at the London-based King’s College.

“India seems to be making the argument that it can play a larger role in Afghanistan by strengthening its security forces. It fits in well with its strategy,” Pant said.

A key element of Trump’s reworked Afghan strategy to defeat the Taliban was a bigger role for India in stabilising Afghanistan.

Earlier this month, India announced it would undertake 116 new “high impact” development projects in 31 provinces of Afghanistan. New Delhi also agreed to “strengthen security cooperation” and “extend further assistance for the Afghan national defence and security forces in fighting the scourge of terrorism, organized crime, trafficking of narcotics and money laundering,” a government statement said.

India has pledged $3.1 billion in assistance to Afghanistan since the ouster of the Taliban from Kabul in November 2001. It is one of the biggest donors in the region to the war-torn country.

Once seen on the side of the invading Soviet Union, India moved to establish diplomatic ties with the new Afghan administration after the ouster of the Taliban in 2001 from Kabul by US-led international troops.

But the Taliban made a comeback after 2004 mainly with the support of Pakistan that wants an Islamabad-friendly government in Kabul to limit India’s influence. “After 2001, the Afghan government came into its own and in today’s world, no country will live by some other country’s priorities,” Pant said. “Pakistan’s attempts to disrupt any alliance between India and Afghanistan has led to exactly that same outcome—of bringing the countries together,” he said.

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