India-Afghanistan agree to intensify security, defence

RSTV Bureau

sushma_swaraj2As Afghanistan prepares for a democratic transition of power, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Afghan President Hamid Karazi on Wednesday held wide-ranging talks on political and security situation in the war-torn country and agreed to intensify cooperation in areas like security and defence.

During the meeting, Swaraj expressed India’s strong commitment to continue extending its all possible help to Afghanistan to meet various challenges and conveyed that it will remain engaged in the country’s reconstruction activities in a significant way.

Both the sides underlined the need for expanding trade ties.

Swaraj, who is on her first visit to Kabul as External Affairs Minister, drove straight from the airport to
presidential palace where she held talks with Karzai on various key issues.

Swaraj said India will speed up various development projects in Afghanistan.

Swaraj’s visit also assumes significance as it comes amid rising fears of the re-emergence of the Taliban and other al-Qaeda linked elements in the country following withdrawal of NATO forces by end of the year.

Afghanistan has been pressing India for supplying military hardware to strengthen its security set up in view of drawdown of NATO forces. Karzai has already given a “wish-list” to India.

Asked whether NDA government will review policy towards Afghanistan, Swaraj had said there was no question of any change in it and asserted that India will continue to help the country in its reconstruction.

Swaraj is also likely to seek better security arrangement for Indian assets in Afghanistan.

The issue of Afghanistan refusing to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the US is also likely to figure in talks between Swaraj and Karzai.

Karzai has refused to ink the proposed Afghan-US security pact demanding that the US must put an immediate end to military raids on Afghan homes and demonstrate its commitment to peace talks before he would sign the agreement.

The BSA would provide for stay of nearly 15,000 US forces at nine locations across Afghanistan.

Afghan officials said over 350,000 Afghan forces have taken responsibility of security and they were capable of taking care of the country’s security.

India’s major infrastructure projects in the country includes the highway from Zaranj to Delaram in South-Western Afghanistan which is considered a symbol of India’s commitment to reconstruction efforts in the country. India is also constructing the Afghan Parliament building.