Other than infrastructure development, capacity building and humanitarian aid, India is out there very much as part of the defence and security mechanism of Afganistan. This time India is helping Afganistan buy attack helicopters to counter both internal and cross border terrorism eminating from its immediate neighborhood. The deal is India has paid for the 4 new MI 35 choppers being bought by Afganistan from Belarus for the intervening time as Afganistan acquires 200 military aircrafts including Apache helicopters and modernising current equipment from the US under 4 year Comprehensive Strategic Plan.
India has also gifted used Mi25 helicopters to Afganistan. This comes under the policy of gifting second hand military equipment to friendly foreign countries who express such requirement. Sources informed such requests have earlier come from some countries in the Indian Ocean Region, some African countries, Central Asian Republics and the Asia Pacific region.
In an interaction to IAFAC, Afganistan Ambassador to India Shahida Abdali, informed that the 4 year plan includes tripling the Afgan Air Force capabilities and doubling the number of Special Forces. India has trained 4000 officers of Afgan Forces. It trains 1000 every year. A recent visit of Afgan Defence Minister to Chennai Defence Expo has sent signals of Afganistan buying equipment from India. To strengthen and expedite defence cooperation as part of bilateral relations, a Joint Defence Commission is set up which meets every 3 months, will have India going over to Kabul this time.From where does terror eminate
Commenting on recent terror attacks in Afganistan, Abdali said that the Afgan Taliban is different to Daesh in Iraq and Syria. He said more than 70% of Taliban is made from a tribe called Orakzai that lives along the Durand Line and whose aim is to keep the war going on under different names with a deceptive policy. 'Daesh, he says, have sold terrorism as a source of income to the western countries for years'. Abdali emphasises, 'it’s a very created environment, a stage show in order to prolong the war.' There has been an increase of 14% in terror activities last year.
For forging regional peace Afganistan has offered for peace talks to Taliban keeping Pakistan in loop. Pakistan has been unrepsonsive yet and Taliban non commital which Abdali says is not a negative sign as its shows they are thinking on it.' The peace offer rides on no conditionalities instead offering the Taliban particpation in electoral politics and facilitates Afgan passport.
With Afganistan's Parliamentry and Presidential elections coming up later in the year and in 2019 respectively, increased violence is said to pose as much a challenge as an opportunity for the Afgans see world pressure being put on these groups to cooperate not confront. The govt says that the Taliban is more of a forced phenomena, more of an external one than internal. Earlier they would occupy territories like 2-4 provinces but now their strategy is hit and run and are targeting soft targets. Our strategy now is from defense to offence,' he said.Economics
Swearing by the South Asia Policy of US, of which India is an important part, Afganistan sees a better future in terms of peace and development in the region. With a growth rate of 3% Afganistan has diversified its interests in relation to trade with neighboring countries. 'Dependence on Pakistan which was around 2 billion dollars has come down to 500 million dollars. Dependence on one single source was being exploited,' Abdali commented.
Under Afgan India framework signed in 2012, so far 200 million US dollars have been spent and 4 billion US dollars announced last year by India. Under the Strategic Partnership Agreement in 2017 India and Afganistan announced a new partnership development that emphasises India to play a greater role in the country. 116 high impact projects have began execution in 36 provinces.
The operationalisation of Chahabar has changed the regions trade and economics. Abdali said, 'We are now getting wheat which was a problem earlier to get through Pakistan. Through Chabahar 7 shipments have reached and around 800 containers will be soon coming through Chabahar from India.'
Air Freight and Economic Trade Corridor from Kabul and Kandhar to Delhi and Mumbai carries perishable items like food and pharmaceutical. Afganistan's trade has reached 700 million US dollars and with Chabahar it is set to reach a billion mark. Countries like Japan and Poland have shown interest in investing in Chabahar for financial gains. Afganistan is ready to open the port to western countries in long run. It is soon planning to hold a major Conference in Chabahar hosted by Iran, inviting Indian, Afgan and Iranian businesses as they aim to make it multilateral. South Asia Dynamics
With Russia having expressed soft corner for Pakistan for its efforts for curbing terrorism and asking world community to support it, Afganistan looks worried at the new new bloc being born. The consequences of Russia, Iran, Pakistan grouping against the one terror force namely Daesh could be detrimental to the unity of the region and the world, warns Afganistan. Abdali said, 'We are apprehensive about the next cold war, we hope these new blocs are not part of the cold war campaign and reject it.The policy behind nurturing terrorism is dangerous coming from same sources. There are more than 20 terrorist groups now but at some level they all combine.' On Belt and Road Initiative
With China's offer of Belt and Road Initiative, Afganistan has a condition for Pakistan. It will only cooperate if Pakistan allows easy trade with India through Wagah and access to Central Asian countries which if is otherwise, Afganistan will not be party to any such initiative.
Afganistan's security is imperative to regional balance and order. India Afgan partnership goes a long way to ensure that the landlocked country is violence free and self sustained for the benefit of the region and the world as a whole.