Wednesday, February 3, 2016

India-Afghanistan: Enhanced Engagement towards a New Milestone


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      


                                                      

The Modi government has held enhanced interactions and successfully established better relations with Afghanistan and a few other neighbouring countries. 

This helps in seeking strategic advantages. There is certainly a growing thirst for change in Afghanistan. People of that country now clamour for peace and development. Amid these, the violent Taliban influence too has decreased. Thus India’s improved relationship in last one year or so with Afghanistan is a great milestone in itself.

                                       

One constant question that has been begging for answer in last two years in Indian diplomacy under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been: ‘Has India arrived at the international stage?’ It goes rather without saying that Prime Minister Modi has left a distinct mark with his unique aplomb. This is all the more relevant in the context of New Delhi’s growing and purposeful engagement with neighbouring countries. These include the likes of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Nepal and others.

India has been truly behaving as a trusted and age-old friend of the terror
and ravaged country, Afghanistan. New Delhi is constantly trying to contribute its mite to help rebuild the war-hit nation.
On this backdrop comes the great significance of the visit of Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Officer and Head of the Council of Ministers, Abdullah Abdullah, who had fruitful rounds of discussions with Prime Minister Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. 

During his meeting with the visiting dignitary, the Prime Minister Modi reiterated New Delhi’s commitment to extend all possible support to the efforts of the Afghan people in building a peaceful, stable, inclusive and democratic country.

                                      
In meeting with Mr Abdullah Abdullah, for her part the External Affairs Minister Ms Swaraj conveyed to Afghanistan in no unambiguous term India’s intent to stay engaged with that country and that at least 100 small and big development projects would be commenced soon. It is worth mentioning that India is already helping Afghan authorities build a high profile ‘Afghan Parliament building’.
The value of the new projects – essentially smaller ones - taken together is estimated around 16-17 million US dollars. India has previously pledged staggeringly high 2 Billion US dollars in relief and reconstruction activities in Afghanistan.
Notably, Abdullah’s visit to New Delhi also comes a little more than a month after Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid a visit to Afghanistan in December 2015.
It is worth recall here that true to his magical spell, in his address to the Afghanistani Parliament, Narendra Modi had said aptly, “in the heart of every Indian and Afghan, there is boundless love for each other. We love each other’s culture and cinema, music and poetry, food and festivals. And, now we admire each other’s cricket”. 
Modi with Afghan Prez Ashraf Ghani
The Afghan side has also looked at India as a friend with optimism. Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai had stuck a good personal rapport with Indian Prime Ministers Dr Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi. 
The present Afghanistan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani showed unique gesture when he called up Prime Minister Modi on January 3rd and condemned the cross border terrorist attack on the Pathankot air base. President Ghani also briefed Prime Minister Modi about the terror attack in northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif. 
Besides economic and cultural ties, to both India and Afghanistan – the terrorism is a big menace and needs to be taken head on.
But this is not possible without joint and concerted efforts. Afghanistan certainly remains a vital element in shaping or reshaping Indian foreign policy. Therefore tackling the global menace of terrorism gets optimum attention in that.
It is significant to note that Afghanistan Chief Executive Officer visited India days before key global players Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the US are to meet in Islamabad probably on 6th February to work on a roadmap to peace in Afghanistan.
Photo: Amarjeet Kumar Singh
 
Besides economic and cultural ties, to both India and Afghanistan – the terrorism is a big menace and needs to be taken head on. But this is not possible without joint and concerted efforts. 
Afghanistan certainly remains a vital element in shaping or reshaping Indian foreign policy. Therefore tackling the global menace of terrorism gets optimum attention in that.
It is also significant to note that Afghanistan Chief Executive Officer visited India days before key global players Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States are to meet in Islamabad probably on 6th February to work on a roadmap to peace in Afghanistan. It is true Afghanistan has suffered enough of violence and merciless killings. Strategically as a policy, Indian authorities have supported an “Afghan-led” and “Afghan-owned” peace process where groups and elements who do not pledge allegiance to the Afghan Constitution be kept out of the peace talks.                             

Notably, from the perception of growing India-Afghanistan ties especially in defence and strategic sectors, it is no small development that lately the Afghan Air Force has inducted three Mi-25 attack helicopters. The helicopters are supplied by India and mark first such collaboration. These attack helicopters will provide a much-needed boost to Afghanistan’s air support capabilities and this will play a role in fighting the terror groups.
(ends)                 


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