India promises to continue training Afghan security forces


New Delhi : With Pakistan intensifying its attempts to influence the Afghan reconciliation process and a month before the phased pullout of US forces, India Wednesday underlined its commitment to reconstruction of Afghanistan and promised to continue training the security personnel of that country.Defence Minister A.K. Antony conveyed India’s resolve to stay engaged to his Afghan counterpart Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak soon after the latter landed on a three-day visit.

During the hour-long delegation level talks, Antony said that as a longstanding friend of the Afghan people, India remains fully committed to supporting Afghanistan in its reconstruction and development efforts, a defence ministry release said.

“India is committed to building the capabilities of the Afghan security forces in accordance with the priorities of the Afghan government,” Antony told Wardak at the meeting.

Both sides noted that terrorism continued to pose a threat to all countries in the region and reiterated the need to ensure cessation of support to such terror organisations in the interest of peace and development.

The stakes for the control of Afghanistan have intensified as the US and NATO begin a phased pullout of their troops from the violence-torn country from July and Pakistan pulls out all stops to entrench its influence in what it sees as its strategic backyard.

Antony said that India places a high premium on expanding bilateral relations with Afghanistan, as exemplified in the multifaceted relationship between the two governments.

India has committed $2 billion in development aid to Afghanistan in the recent years. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, during his visit to Kabul a fortnight ago, pledged an additional $500 million, taking India’s total aid assistance to the embattled nation to $2 billion.

Wardak, who is accompanied by a seven-member delegation, conveyed Afghanistan’s appreciation for India’s “the friendship and support”.

The training offer was welcomed by Kabul, whose Afghan National Army is expected to take charge of the country’s security by 2014. Wardak told reporters that the Afghan government would welcome all cooperation from India in training its national security forces to enable the personnel to better defend the nation.

“We will welcome any cooperation in the field of training and helping of Afghan national security forces so that they are able to secure and defend the country,” he said when asked about the nature of military asssistance his country would ask from India.

Asked if he was seeking arms supplies from India, he said: “We will be discussing.”

“There is a very genuine interest in strengthening our relations in all sectors including defence,” he added.

Wardak began his visit by laying a wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti memorial to the Unknown Soldier. He was presented a tri-services guard of honour on his arrival at the South Block defence ministry headquarters.

There have been periodic exchanges between the armed forces of the two countries since Wardak last visited India in April 2008. The Afghan Chief of General Staff, Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi, visited India last October.

India has been training Afghan security forces’ officers and men at its military training institutions, ranging from the National Defence Academy and Indian Military Academy at Dehradun to the School of Artillery at Deolali.

That apart, India has worked on several development projects in Afghanistan, such the 218-km Zaranj-Delaram road by sending its Border Roads Organisation personnel and paramilitary forces to provide security to the workers.

It has also posted army officers there to teach basic English language skills to Afghan army officers, apart from military doctors to work in hospitals such in Kandhahar.

India, however, has been steadfastly refusing to send to troops to Afghanistan in spite of its personnel and facilities being under threat from Pakistan-based terror groups. (IANS)