Ahead of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s twelfth visit to India, New Delhi on Saturday said that it was ready to consider Kabul’s request for supply of weapons, but insisted that the issue should be discussed at the Strategic Partnership Council set up by the two countries in 2011.
“There are diplomatic channels available and we will consider these (requests) as and when they are raised in the channels which are available,” Syed Akbaruddin, official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, told journalists. He was replying to queries on Afghanistan’s call to India to step up bilateral defence cooperation and supply of both lethal and non-lethal weapons.
Karzai will visit India from Monday to Wednesday. The Afghan president will receive an honourary degree from a private university in Punjab before travelling to New Delhi where he will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday.
Afghan envoy to India, Shaida M Abdali, recently told mediapersons here that New Delhi should step up its “investment in the security of Afghanistan to prevent spillover effects of terrorism in Afghanistan” after the 2014 withdrawal of the US-led International Security Assistance Force from active combat role in the conflict-ridden country. Abdali also said that Afghanistan was looking forward to lethal and non-lethal weapons and other equipment from India for its armed forces.
Reacting to the Afghan ambassador’s request to India, the MEA spokesman on Saturday said that the two countries had mechanisms available to address such issues.
New Delhi has so far kept its defence cooperation with Kabul limited to training personnel of Afghan National Security Forces in institutions in India and supplying non-lethal military hardware.
India and Afghanistan signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement in October 2011 and set up a Strategic Partnership Council, which has four separate joint working groups for political and security consultations, trade and economic cooperation, capacity development and education and social cultural and civil society interactions.
New Delhi has since long been engaged in reconstruction and developments projects in Afghanistan. India’s major projects in Afghanistan include construction of a road from Zaranj to Delaram and the extension of power lines from the country’s northern to central region and to Kabul. There are two more ongoing Indian projects in Afghanistan – construction of Afghan Parliament building in Kabul and Salma Dam Hydropower Project in Heart. Both are likely to be completed soon.
Akbaruddin on Saturday said that New Delhi did realise that the political and security issues could not be ignored while pursuing economic development of Afghanistan.