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$3 billion cooperation, till 2018
US Prez Mocks PM Modi For ‘Building Library’
Even as US President Donald Trump called on India to play a bigger security role in Afghanistan, ridiculing in the process Prime Minister Narendra Modi for having built what he incorrectly claimed was a library, New Delhi brushed the putdown aside, saying there was no question of “putting boots on the ground”.
The government hit back, with sources here saying India’s developmental assistance to the war-torn country, which exceeds $3 billion, can transform human lives there. In what was seen as a deeply offensive remark, Trump had described India’s assistance as “five hours of what we spend”.
Trump, who seems to have mistaken Afghanistan’s Parliament building built by India for a library, was prodding New Delhi to do more in Afghanistan militarily but India would have none of it. The US president’s comments came in the context of his defence of the decision to pull out of Afghanistan, with many arguing that this harms American security interests and lets down allies. India has consistently resisted deploying active military personnel except as part of UN missions.
The Vajpayee government did not send troops as part of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 after a brief inhouse debate and this has not changed even in the case of nearby Afghanistan.
India is largest donor to Afghanistan in region
Government sources here reiterated India’s position that the country does not send its armed forces abroad except under “the specific mandate of UN Peacekeeping operations”.
In his first 2019 cabinet meeting, Trump called for Russia, India and Pakistan to shoulder more responsibility for Afghanistan’s security.
“I could give you an example, you know I get along with India and the PM Modi, and he’s constantly telling me he built a library in Afghanistan,” Trump said. “You know what that is? That’s like five hours of what we spend. And he tells it — and he’s very smart — and we’re supposed to say, ‘Oh, thank you for the library’. I don’t know who’s using it in Afghanistan,” he added, in remarks considered offensive even by the Afghan authorities.
Sources said India’s partnership with Afghanistan was built on the specific requirements worked out with the Afghan government.
“It is aimed at the welfare of the people of Afghanistan and for a tangible improvement in the lives of its people. India seeks to build capacities and capabilities of Afghan nationals and its institutions for governance and delivery of public service, develop socio-economic infrastructure, secure lives and promote livelihood,” said a government source while elaborating on India’s ties with Afghanistan.
This is the first time that the US has sought to trivialise India’s efforts in rebuilding Afghanistan after the US war to oust Taliban. The Obama administration had always lauded India’s contribution and the role it played in improving the lives of people. While India remains open to supplying military equipment and has even gifted attack choppers to the government in Kabul, the government has steadfastly maintained that it won’t put boots on the ground.
With its assistance exceeding $3 billion, India is the largest donor to Afghanistan in the region. The government sees its partnership with Afghanistan as based on five pillars — infrastructure projects, humanitarian assistance, connectivity, capacity-building and economic development. India’s infrastructure projects, like the Zaranj-Delaram road and Salma Dam, which has been generating electricity since 2016 and releases water to irrigate 75,000 hectares of land, have generated a lot of goodwill with locals, sources said.
1980: Indira coaxed Pak to join strategy against the Afghan “occupation”
The report said Indira sought to form a regional grouping to exert diplomatic pressure on the Soviets to confine their "activities" to Afghanistan.
Indira Gandhi in an interview post the Emergency period in India. (Source: ThamesTv/YouTUbe) Worried over Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi tried to persuade then Pakistan President Zia-ul-Haq in 1980 to join an Indian-sponsored regional strategy to effectively deal with the “occupation”, according to a declassified CIA report. The report said Indira sought to form a regional grouping to exert diplomatic pressure on the Soviets to confine their “activities” to Afghanistan.
The Pakistani establishment was also concerned that India might take advantage of the tension along the Af-Pak border to intimidate Pakistan or that India might launch a preemptive strike against its nuclear facilities. According to the report declassified last week, in the wake of the invasion, Pakistani leadrship was also apprehensive about the potential for Soviet and Indian efforts — separate or joint– to undermine Pakistan’s stability.
“Immediately after the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Indira Gandhi — who had just returned to power–tried to persuade President Zia’s government to adopt an Indian-sponsored regional approach to the Soviet occupation,” the report said. Rejecting India’s proposal, the Pakistani officials characterised the plan to the US diplomats as “hegemonistic” and instead accepted American offers of arms to counter the Soviet threat from Afghanistan.
On its part, India feared that the revival of any US-Pakistani military ties and the expanded US naval presence in the Inbdian Ocean will increase super-power competition in a region where India aspired to have unchallenged dominance. “Senior Indian officials believed the extent of the threat posed to India and the region by the Soviet invasion would depend on whether Pakistan became a ‘buffer state’ or whether it became a ‘confrontation state’ by accepting major military help from outside powers, allowing foreign bases on its soil,” the CIA assessed.
In response to Indian arguments that Pakistan’s acquisitions of US arms threatened India, Zia in 1981 had proposed a non-aggression pact with New Delhi. The report said New Delhi continued to parry Pakistani initiatives on the pact. Talking about various issues involving Indo-Pak ties, the CIA said Islamabad feared that India’s desire for “regional pre-eminence threatens Pakistan’s survival”.
2016: "Heart of Asia Conference", Amritsar
The Hindu, December 6, 2016
There are good reasons why the ‘Heart of Asia’ conference, part of a 14-nation process begun in 2011 to facilitate the development and security of Afghanistan, is so named. The obvious one is geographical, as Afghanistan lies at the junction of Central, South and East Asia, and also of the ancient trading routes from China and India to Europe.
It is also a focal point for the region’s biggest challenge of terrorism; some of the far-reaching battles against al-Qaeda, Islamic State, etc. will be decided on the battlegrounds of Afghanistan. The case Mr. Ghani made was clear: progress and development in Afghanistan are meaningless and unsustainable without peace, and peace is contingent on Pakistan ending support to terror groups such the Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Taiba.
As a result, the measures India and Afghanistan have envisaged, such as land trade from the Chabahar port and a dedicated air corridor between Delhi and Kabul, have proved to be insufficient, even as Afghanistan is connected more closely via a rail line from China’s Yiwu and Tehran. The Heart of Asia process thus remains critical to forging cooperation to realise Afghanistan’s potential to be a vibrant Asian “hub”.