US, India sign pact on Afghanistan
WASHINGTON, June 14: The United States and India have signed an agreement for holding regular trilateral talks with Afghanistan to help Kabul strengthen its grip on power.
The agreement coincides with US media reports that Washington wants India to fill up the post-withdrawal vacuum in Afghanistan.
The US also wants India to play a bigger role in training Afghan security forces as the 2014 deadline for withdrawing all combat
troops from that country draws near, the reports added.
Both India and the US already have separate strategic agreements with Afghanistan. The new arrangement will allow a three-way consultation process, like the trilateral arrangement the US has with Pakistan and Afghanistan.
But diplomatic observers in Washington say that a rapid deterioration of their relations with Pakistan forced the Americans to seek India as the new partner.
“They intend to explore opportunities to work together to promote Afghanistan’s development, including in areas such as agriculture, mining, energy, capacity building and infrastructure,” said a joint statement issued at the conclusion of the third
US-India strategic dialogue on Wednesday.
When asked at a news conference if security could form a part of the trilateral dialogue, Indian External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna said:
“Security would certainly form an important segment.”
The agreement shows how US-Pakistan relations have deteriorated in the past two years. In 2010, the United States agreed to keep India out of a conference of Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours on Pakistan’s request.
In 2011, when US-Pakistan relations began to recede, India was invited to a similar conference in Turkey and in 2012, the United States included India in a trilateral pact with Afghanistan, keeping Pakistan out of the arrangement.
Now, India is hosting its own conference in New Delhi later this month to attract investments into Afghanistan and the US is backing the move. India has provided some $2 billion to Afghanistan since 2001.
At their strategic dialogue, the US and India referred to Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan but only to underscore its support for terrorists.
“They reiterated that success in Afghanistan and regional and global security require elimination of safe havens and infrastructure for terrorism and violent extremism in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” said the joint statement.