What did Karzai ask for during his visit to India?

Last Updated: Fri, May 24, 2013 12:13 hrs

The two-day visit to India by President Hamid Karzai did not receive the media attention that it deserved, as it overlapped the visit of Chinese Premier Le Keqiang. But Hamid Karzai's brief visit was of major importance to India, as the region would have to face a sensitive situation next year following the withdrawal of forces of the United States and its allies from Afghanistan.

Western analysts believe that there would be a vacuum when the United States troops return home. They fear that the Taliban or other fundamentalist forces will fill the vacuum. They fear that the situation would be similar to that which existed in Afghanistan two decades ago when the U.S. withdrew following the defeat of Soviet Forces in Afghanistan.

Such an assessment would appeal to the Western ego. Western analysts tend to overlook the progress made by Afghanistan in various spheres in the recent past. President Karzai wants to make sure that the institutions built in the country should be assisted to consolidate and grow.

What did Karzai ask for during his visit to India? And what were the assurances from the Indian side. It is unlikely that President Karzai asked for Indian troops to fill the vacuum created by the withdrawal of the Western forces. India had made it clear that the Indian Army would not be deployed in Afghanistan. And, Karzai was aware of it. During the last decade, India has been assisting Afghanistan in building roads and training people in healthcare, among other things.

India has reiterated its willingness to train Afghan personnel in various fields, including security, in India. To this list, Afghanistan has added defence equipment. In his interaction with the media after talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other leaders, President Karzai said he has given a 'wish list' of defence equipment to India and suggested that India should help set up a "Sandhurst-type" military academy in Afghanistan and help equip the army to ensure security of the country.

Afghanistan would like its armed forces personnel to receive training at an institution in the country itself, instead of its personnel coming to India. As far as the wish list of equipment is concerned, the request includes supply of howitzers, helicopters and bridge laying equipment.

Afghanistan would like to get defence equipment from India, as it would be easier for the security forces of Afghanistan, who have been trained in India or by Indians, to assimilate the weapons easily.

Karzai, who has had his education here, pointed out that India - which is traditionally not a donor country - has donated around $ 2 billion to Afghanistan. He expects India to continue assisting to enable Afghanistan to stabilize itself.

India is also engaged in the construction of the Chahbahar Port in Iran, which is adjacent to Afghanistan. Once the port is ready, it will also improve communication from India to Afghanistan. Karzai would have been given the assurance that as Afghanistan moves towards its critical period of political and economic transition, India can play a crucial role in ensuring that country's security and stability.

Firstly, by asking for assistance to create a Sandhurst type institution in his country, President Karzai wants to ensure that the Afghan National Army, which has a strength of 180,000, and is expected to reach 240,000 by next year, would be strong enough to ensure the security of the country.

The Afghan National Police will also be a strong force by the end of this year with a strength of 140,000.

The biggest problem for Karzai has been the fact that NATO forces have been fighting insurgents within Afghanistan, while most of them have their bases in Pakistan.

Pakistan, which claims to be in the forefront of fight against terror, has been providing shelter to the Taliban for over a decade.

President Karzai is hopeful that the recent elections in Pakistan will be helpful. He pointed out that the peace process in Afghanistan would be difficult without the cooperation of Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif has received assistance from various radical groups during the election. However, the recent statements by Sharif has given hope both to Afghanistan and India that there would be progress towards the consolidation of peace in the region. 

One hopes that Karzai would succeed in his endeavours. 

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