Wednesday, 21 November 2012

India set to ramp up involvement with Afghanistan

Few weeks back, Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai is travelling to Delhi to confer with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Several agreements are expected to be signed. 

One of the important pacts will be on training of Afghan soldiers by the Indian Army. On Thursday me and colleague Amitabh Revi reported on what the exact plan is. Here's the report along with a link to the video of our discussion.

It is particularly gratifying to see that the plan, first envisaged by both governments in 2011 and reported by us in November 2011 (the link is at the end of this blog entry), coming to fruition.

India has a lot at stake in Afghanistan and therefore an important area to watch out for.

(Video link) http://www.ndtv.com/video/player/left-right-centre/is-training-the-afghan-army-a-high-stakes-game/216277?vod-related

India has agreed to train upto 600 Afghan Army officers every year in India under a pact that President Hamid Karzai is expected to sign with India early next week, highly placed sources have told NDTV.

The program is the first concrete follow-up on military-to-military cooperation under the umbrella of the Strategic Partnership Agreement that was signed between Kabul and New Delhi in 2011 when Afghan President Hamid Karzai was given a grand reception in India.

Under the agreement, India, which has the world’s third-largest army, agreed to train, equip and build the capacity of the Afghan forces.

Sources in the Indian security establishment familiar with the contours of the detailed schedule say Kabul and New Delhi have identified three areas to focus on, namely increasing the intake of officers in India’s premier training institutes; providing specialized training to middle and higher level officers already operating in the Afghan National Army (ANA); and training soldiers in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorist operations. 

Over 200 Afghan cadets will be training at the National Defence Academy, the Officers' Training Academies and the Indian Military Academy every year. This is over and above the 600 serving Afghan National Army (ANA) officers who will undergo a variety of courses.

In addition, company level (100-strong) contingents of ANA will be trained for four weeks at the Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School located at Vairangte in Mizoram.

NDTV had reported on these plans in December 2011. It has taken almost a year for New Delhi and Kabul to firm up the details.

India however has no plans to send or deploy its troops in Afghanistan as of now.

President Karzai is also likely to sign a pact on allowing India and Indian companies to mine that country's vast natural resources. Indian companies are planning to invest over 11 bn dollars in the mining sector over the long term in Afghanistan.

New Delhi has also decided to supply vehicles, information technology and sports equipment, a move seen as a paradigm shift in India’s approach to Afghanistan.

So far, India has concentrated on using “soft power” in the development sector, such as helping with the building of roads, hospitals and even the parliament building in Afghanistan. But by offering extensive training facilities for ANA, India has decided to ramp up its involvement, although it’s currently stopping short of supplying any military hardware. New Delhi has also decided not to send training teams to Afghanistan in view of the two attacks on its embassy in Kabul.

The Indian security and strategic establishment has been wary of discussing the Indo-Afghan military-to-military relationship, not least because of Islamabad’s sensitivities. Pakistan sees the growing relationship between New Delhi and Kabul as denying “strategic depth” to its army, and even as an Indian attempt to encircle Pakistan.

President Karzai arrives in Mumbai on Friday and later travels to Delhi. 

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