Our intention is to invest and endure in Afghanistan: India

India is hosting the Delhi Investment Summit on Afghanistan today which will draw over 65 foreign companies from around the world, including 12 companies from the US and a handful of companies from even China and Pakistan.

Uttara Choudhury June 28, 2012 10:05:12 IST
Our intention is to invest and endure in Afghanistan: India

New York: India has every intention of expanding its economic presence in Afghanistan as a NATO deadline to withdraw all its combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 draws near, indicated Nirupama Rao, India's ambassador to Washington.

"Our intention is to invest and endure, and that's the approach we are taking. We already have committed about $2 billion of investment in Afghanistan and we are prepared to do more," Ambassador Nirupama Rao said at a Bloomberg Government breakfast in Washington.

India is hosting the Delhi Investment Summit on Afghanistan today which will draw over 65 foreign companies from around the world, including 12 companies from the US and a handful of companies from even China and Pakistan.

Our intention is to invest and endure in Afghanistan India

Nirupama Rao, India's ambassador to Washington.

At a meeting last week between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and External Affairs Minister SM Krishna, the two countries agreed to hold three-way talks with Afghanistan.

At the cost of making Pakistan hyperventilate the US has become very vocal in its appreciation of Indian efforts in Afghanistan. It now wants India to fill up the post-US vacuum in Afghanistan and play a bigger role in training Afghan security forces.

Staying the course

Delhi has poured in $2 billion in aid and reconstruction since 2001, while private sector groups plan to invest some $10 billion. Reuters reported that India has also won an iron ore concession in a $11 billion investment.

"More aid and more training for Afghan troops could stabilise Afghanistan's beleaguered government and destabilise the insurgency, Harish Pant, a professor of defence studies at King's College, London wrote in The Wall Street Journal.

India has been running courses for small groups of Afghan army officers at military institutions in India, but it has avoided bigger involvement in bolstering Afghan security. The Taliban is acutely aware that India has the resources to have boots on the ground if it wants in Afghanistan. It also knows India commands impressive soft power in the country thanks to the reconstruction work it has done in Afghanistan.

Earlier this month, the rattled Taliban came right out and said India has done well to resist US calls for greater involvement in Afghanistan. Addressing fears in New Delhi that anti-India militants may become more emboldened if the Taliban return to power, the Taliban said they won't let Afghanistan be used as a base against another country.

Most analysts didn't fall for the Taliban sweet-talk.

"It's more a gentle reminder asking India not to mess around in Afghanistan after the Americans leave," Vikram Sood, a former chief of India's intelligence agency, told Reuters.

Ramping up efforts

South Asia expert Sumit Ganguly, who is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations said India has adequate training facilities and can train the Afghan army and strengthen it at low cost and should ramp up its efforts.

"Pakistan's interests are completely different from those of India in Afghanistan. They want the return of some variant of the Taliban so that they can again use Afghanistan as a launching pad for jihadi attacks against India," Ganguly told Firstpost.

Pakistan has strong traditional links with the Afghan Taliban and other militant groups. The US is now deeply disenchanted with Pakistan for playing a disruptive and destabilising role in Afghanistan.

Pant asked India to bite the bullet and stabilise Afghanistan in the interest of regional security.

"There has been a persistent complaint in the corridors of power in New Delhi that the Obama administration sacrificed Indian interests at the altar of pleasing Pakistan, which further allowed Pakistan's proxies to destabilise Afghanistan. Now that Washington is making it clear that it views Pakistan as part of the problem and India as part of the solution, Delhi dithers," wrote Pant in The Wall Street Journal.

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