Thursday, May 16, 2013

Afghanistan seeks enhanced military help from India

May 17, 2013,NEW DELHI:--

As India prepares to host President Hamid Karzai next week, in what will be his second visit to the country in six months, Afghanistan said on Thursday it is looking at enhanced defence engagements with New Delhi, including supply of lethal military equipment.

The government has so far been reluctant to offer more military help to Afghanistan restricting itself to mostly training Afghan military staff in India only. Karzai is expected to land here on Tuesday after attending a function in Punjab where he will receive a doctorate from a local university. President Pranab Mukherjee is also expected to attend the function.

Ahead of the visit, Afghanistan\'s ambassador to India Shaida M Abdali told reporters here that the two countries will discuss key bilateral issues at a \"critical time\" for the war-torn country which is witnessing a withdrawal by NATO forces.

\"Training is most welcome. Other assistance in small stages is most welcome.....but we would like to go beyond the current trend of co-operation between the two countries in the defence sector,\" he said.

Asserting that \"India is in a position to play a leading role in the entire region for peace and economic development,\" the envoy made a strong pitch for enhanced defence cooperation between the two countries. Karzai is expected to take up the issue in his meeting with PM Manmohan Singh.

\"The partnership agreement does not distinguish between lethal and non-lethal. We have talked about security and defence cooperation...this does not exclude lethal or non-lethal assistance to Afghanistan,\" he said. The envoy was referring to the strategic partnership agreement the two countries had signed in 2011.

\"So, we would like to have both lethal and non-lethal assistance to our defence forces in Afghanistan.\"

The Afghan envoy also welcomed the recent commitment of upgrading strategically important Chabahar port in Iran which would help India get access to the land-locked and resource-rich countries. An estimated $ 100 million is required for the modernization of the port.

\"We would like to see the conclusion of the agreement on the Chabahar port. We are very happy that this is gathering momentum. We hope that we sign the trilateral trade agreement among India, Afghanistan and Iran as quickly as possible. We are optimistic after Indian minister Salman Khurshid\'s visit to Iran,\" the Afghan envoy added.
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