The MoU for the proposal, supported by UNDP, could be signed next week
After training Afghan National Army officers and soldiers for four years, India is now planning to train Afghan police officers here as well, says Afghanistan’s envoy to India. The MoU for the proposal, which will be supported by the United Nations Development Programme is a first, and was discussed as a part of enhancing the security partnership between India and Afghanistan during the meeting of the Strategic Partnership Council in Delhi this month.
“We want to expand [the India-Afghanistan security partnership] to training Afghan police officers in India,” confirmed Ambassador Shaida Mohammad Abdali in an exclusive interview to The Hindu, indicating the MoU could be signed as early as next week.
“India has always been an excellent partner for all our capacity building programmes. And we do have similarities in some of the aspects of the conflict we face, so Indian knowledge and experience is going to be very useful for us, especially in counter-terror, and counter-narcotic [programmes],” he added.
The Ambassador’s comments come ahead of two separate, high profile visits to Delhi next week, by U.S. Secretary of Defence James Mattis on Monday, and Afghanistan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, which are expected to shape the contours of the U.S.’s newly announced Afghanistan policy, in which U.S. President Donald Trump called for greater Indian involvement in development projects in Afghanistan. While Mr. Mattis is in Delhi for bilateral talks on the Indo-U.S. defence partnership, he is expected to discuss the security situation in Afghanistan, as well as the U.S.’s declared policy to shut down “safe havens for terror” in Pakistan. Mr. Abdullah, who is expected later in the week, is coming for the first India-Afghanistan business and investment conference, which is sponsored by the U.S. agency USAID.
“This will be a good opportunity for India, Afghanistan and the U.S. to develop their partnerships in Afghanistan. We are also going to hold a trilateral meeting [of officials from all three countries], where we will focus on further enhancing our cooperation in the economic and development field.” Mr. Abdali said, adding that he hoped Indian businessmen would see that investing in Afghanistan would “pay them back” in the region as well, once India completes the Chabahar port project in Iran which would connect to Afghanistan and Central Asia.
The MEA did not respond to requests for a comment on the plan to train police officers, who have borne the brunt of a spike in attacks by the Taliban since 2016, when about 6,300 members of Afghan security and defence forces were killed. At present about 200 Afghan soldiers are trained at a time at the Indian Military Academy, including 130 cadets and about 30-40 officers. The training of police officers, which India had first offered to Afghanistan in 2011, will be a significant step in security ties, which are a small part of the relationship, compared to India’s $3 billion investment in civilian projects since 2002, with 116 new projects announced this month. Last year, India sent Afghanistan four Russian-made Mi-25 helicopters, but has yet to concede to Afghan requests for more equipment, transport vehicles, while an agreement for Indian engineers to repair the helicopters and to refurbish old aircraft that is presently non-functional, has still not been finalised a year later.
Conceding the delay, the Afghan envoy said that while Afghanistan is “grateful” for India’s help thus far, they understand India’s own capabilities to give Afghanistan more hardware are “constrained,” and Afghanistan is focussing on the U.S assurance of continued support for the next 4-5 years. “Strategically speaking, we are now looking at building an army on this western model. The recent four Blackhawks (helicopters) is part of our long term plan, to have at least 200 aircraft in 2023,” Mr. Abdali told The Hindu, adding that India’s help is most essential during the “transition” from Soviet-era to U.S. and NATO hardware.
Calling Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s recent comments that there was “zero” place for a military or political role for India in Afghanistan as “unfortunate,” Mr. Abdali said it represented an old “cold-war” era mindset, adding that “no country has the right to dictate or manipulate Afghanistan’s foreign policy.”
By: The Hindu
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