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Karzai to Discuss Enhancing Defense Ties with India

Afghan President Hamid Karzai receives an honorary degree from his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee, second right, at the Lovely Professional University in Jalandhar, India, May 20, 2013.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai is in India seeking to enhance defense ties with New Delhi. Afghanistan is looking for more military aid as it prepares for a withdrawal of NATO forces by next year.

Speaking at ceremony during which he was given an honorary degree Monday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai expressed his appreciation for the $2 billion aid that India has extended toward rebuilding his country.

But, as he heads into talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Tuesday evening, he is likely to press India to expand that aid to include military assistance. Aides to President Karzai say he wants India to help strengthen Afghan security forces and meet military shortages.

Development assistance

Before the Afghan leader’s arrival, Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin indicated that although New Delhi’s assistance to Afghanistan is focused mainly on development projects, the government might consider other types of aid. Without elaborating, he says that "within our own modest means as a developing country," India will respond to specific requests of the Afghan government.

"While we are striving to realize this vision of an economically viable Afghanistan... we do realize and we have no illusions that we can ignore the political and security issues that stand in the way of realizing that vision," said Akbaruddin.

No immediate agreements are likely to be reached. Indian Foreign Ministry officials say all such issues would be best discussed through a strategic partnership agreement, which the two countries signed in 2011.

Last week, the Afghan ambassador in New Delhi told reporters his country would like both lethal and non-lethal military equipment.

India has been involved in Afghanistan’s reconstruction, including building roads and hospitals, and laying power transmission lines. But, so far, their military cooperation has been restricted to training a limited number of Afghan forces at India’s military institutions. New Delhi provides virtually no weapons to the Afghan army.

Strengthening defense ties

Afghanistan is looking for more military assistance as its forces prepares to take over security operations from foreign troops by the end of next year.

However, any strengthening of defense ties between India and Afghanistan may be viewed by Pakistan as part of an Indian strategy to encircle it from both sides.

The Indian and Afghan leaders are also likely to discuss a spike in tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan, following clashes along their disputed border earlier this month. Analysts say the incident has prompted Afghanistan to focus on strengthening its border defenses.