India to Strengthen Afghan Defences, Regains top Billing with Ghani Visit
NEW DELHI. India and Afghanistan signed an extradition treaty, considered a landmark in the bilateral strategic partnership, during the visit of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to Ind ia September 14. The two countries also sealed agreements on peaceful uses of outer space and on cooperation on civil and commercial matters, while India announced a credit line of another one billion dollars to the terrorism-ravaged nation.
Although India’s Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar declined to specifically state whether India would step up its defense collaboration with Afghanistan, specifically the supply of military hardware, he said India and Afghanistan had enhanced their bilateral security cooperation, and sought an end to sponsorship of “all forms of terrorism.”
President Ghani was more forthright on the issue saying, “India’s assistance to Afghanistan is open, transparent. Helicopters have been provided at our request and we greatly appreciate those. India and Afghanistan’s collaboration is for stability,” he emphasised, while responding to a question.
“If we accept that terrorism is a threat, and there is no one that can deny this, then we need systems that share common values to collaborate and countries that feel threatened by collaboration between two peace-loving countries need to change their outlook and not blame,” the Afghan President stated. “This is not a question of a blame game, it is a question of fundamentally thinking through the current regional and global level,” he said while asking for more international support to build his country economically on the one hand and help it fight Pakistan-sponsored terrorism on the other.
EXTRADITION TREATY WITH INDIA
Signing the bilateral Extradition Treaty to facilitate exchange of wanted terrorists and criminals is a step forward to counter terrorism and narcotics smuggling, which forms the financial lifeline of most of the terrorist organisations in the region.
“The specific nature of terrorist threats faced by India and Afghanistan is congruent in many ways since their origins have some common elements,” explained Jayant Prasad, former Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan and now Director General of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA). “For counter-terrorist efforts to succeed against the present or future avatars of
terrorism, the denial of safe havens must go hand in hand with the dismantling of the infrastructure of terrorism.”
“With Pakistan’s terrorist credentials more fully exposed, President Ghani has begun to understand Pakistan’s real intentions and is moving away from Islamabad’s embrace,” Afghan diplomats told India Strategic.
India is “obviously relieved” and has opened its purse-strings to help Kabul build capacity against the onslaught of terror from across its borders.
PAKISTAN SPONSORING TERRORISM AGAINST AFGHANISTAN
A joint statement issued after talks between the visiting Afghan President and Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an oblique reference to Pakistan, viewed by both countries as the principal sponsor of terrorist activity in both countries, said India and Afghanistan called upon “the concerned” to “put an end to all sponsorship, support, safe havens and sanctuaries to terrorists including for those who target Afghanistan and India.”
Describing the ‘fifth wave’ of political violence that has hit his country as probably one of the “most wellfinanced movements in history” President Ghani said that “in the absence of rules of the game”, and due to the willingness of some states – read Pakistan – to sponsor non-state actors, the phenomena has evolved over the years with deepened techniques.
“States do not behave like maligned non-state actors vis-a-vis their neighbours. They see a collective security to be an objective to bring stability. Stability does not come from the barrel of the gun,” President Ghani said in a veiled barb at Pakistan, pointing out that distinctions between good and bad terrorism was short-sighted.l bite like a snake whoever feeds it,” he said.
India and Afghanistan are setting an example in regional collaboration, the Afghan President said. “Today, right now there are two wars going on. The war in my country is not a civil war. When you have nine internationally classified terrorist groups operating in your country, what is the political framework for dealing with it?”
Linking the war in Afghanistan with the struggle India is facing, Dr Ghani said, “the entire literature of Kashmir insurgency is premised that it is a struggle for power. But what do we do with people who belong to other countries, whose quarrels were with other countries? ”
STRUGGLE AGAINST PAKISTANI SUPPRESSION
Dr Ghani also said that Pakistan itself is facing problems as people in Baluchistan and in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have risen against Pakistan’s suppression of people.
“The second war that is going on is the war in Pakistan,” he said. There are 207,000 members of the Pakistani army just in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and of course in Baluchistan. We need to understand why a force of 207,000, which after 1898 is the greatest force assembled, is required, and again, my humble suggestion is that use of force alone is not going to do it,” he said.
In a scathing critique of the Pakistani establishment, the Afghan President said, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend does not work.”
INDIA-AFGHAN RELATIONS ARE TRANSPARENT
Responding to a question from India Strategic, about Islamabad alleging that India had a series of intelligence stations across Afghanistan, President Ghani said this was “a tissue of imagination.”
“Afghanistan has been absolutely clear. We do not permit our territory to be used against any of our neighbours,” the President said. “Why divide, why not connect, because that is the history of this region. This is a crisscrossing place of networks. There are no rough stations, destabilising,” the President said, dismissing Pakistani allegations.
Elaborating, President Ghani said, “India’s relationship with Afghanistan is state- to- state. It is transparent, it is on budget, it is accounted for. That is the nature of our relationship with all our key partners. We have found partnership based on common interest, on common values and of course on
“Pakistan is a revisionist state, every defeat is celebrated as victory; every intelligence failure is confirmation of a conspiracy theory.”
Contrasting that with the nature of the India-Afghanistan partnership, President Ghani said, “The fundamental issue is that we have a constructive vision. We have used force against TTP. Their top leadership has been eliminated by use of force. Could they (Pakistan) please point out how many of the Haqqani Network they have tackled, and how many of the Taliban leadership? We behave like a responsible State even though we are under attack.”
Afghan diplomats said the Pakistani allegations were aimed at sabotaging Afghanistan as well as its positive relations with India. “Pakistan lies all the time.”
President Ghani’s two-day working visit this year was different to his last one, when New Delhi was unhappy with him for seemingly ignoring India and placing it in the “fourth circle” of partnerships. Mr Ghani then appeared to ignore India’s concerns and placed Islamabad on a special pedestal then. He has seen the truth now from the apex chair.
INDIA EXTENDS MORE ASSISTANCE
India extended a one- billion dollar line of credit for ‘ capacity and capability building.’ The credit announced September 14 is above the over two billion dollars India extended to Afghanistan for infrastructure projects, including the Friendship dam, the Zaranj-Delaram road, the Parliament building and the power grid lighting the capital.
Official sources told India Strategic that the two countries would not advertise their defence collaboration. But as the first country with which Afghanistan signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) in October 2011, India “would not be found wanting” in the delivery of “whatever assistance Kabul requires.”
President Ghani and PM Modi, who have met eight times over the past year at various fora, also sought faster implementation of the trilateral agreement among Afghanistan, Iran and India, signed in May 2016, to create a network of regional connectivity around Iran’s Chabahar port. Connectivity was a key focus of the discussions, the Foreign Secretary said after the two-part discussions ended. Pakistan does not allow India transit rights to supply goods to Afghanistan.
“Why are we concerned that a country (Pakistan) can block two great nations ( India-Afghan) from trade? Anyway, with Chabahar, the monopoly will end,” President Ghani declared.
(Above) Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the Afghan President Dr. Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, at Hyderabad House, in New Delhi (Below) Ghani with President Pranab Mukherjee, at Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi