Kabul's Indian Option
Afghanistan and India in First Ever Strategic Pact

Brought together by suspicion of Pakistani support for terrorism aimed against them Afghanistan and India signed a strategic pact.

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Amiel Ungar,

Hamid Karzai
Hamid Karzai

The United States and Afghanistan have recently expressed their frustration with Pakistan over what they consider a double game. Pakistan officially sides with the war against Islamic extremism while covertly conniving with the same extremists.

Afghani president Hamid Karzai and several senior officials have claimed that Pakistan was involved in the assassination of the government's chief negotiator with the Taliban Burhanuddin Rabbani. They presented Pakistan with evidence that the killer was a Pakistani national and the planning was performed in Pakistan. Pakistan according to the Afghanis has refused cooperation.

"Today we received a message from the embassy of Pakistan saying that since this issue has arisen in media, we cannot co-operate and we apologize for that," said Mohammad Yasin Zia, deputy head of the National Directorate of Security.

It was in this context that Karzai's visit to New Delhi for his third meeting in the year with Indian leader Manmohan Singh took on a new significance. Given Muslim religious feelings in Afghanistan Muslim Pakistan is the preferable partner and Pakistan provides Afghanistan with an outlet to the sea. Additionally too close relationship with New Delhi would have fueled Pakistani fears of encirclement ensuring further mischief.

Now the Indian option is getting another look. India has not been inactive and has provided economic assistance. Many of Afghanistan's bureaucrats received their training in India. Economic and technical assistance have been the focus to avoid antagonizing Pakistan.

This may change due to mutual sympathy between governments that view themselves as victimized by terrorism emanating from Pakistan. An initial strategic agreement has been signed between the two countries. While the declaration omits mention of Pakistan it emphasizes the need to wage a joint struggle against international terrorism. To instill contents into the concept India may train Afghan security forces and police in counterterror operations.

“We will do all within our means to help Afghanistan,” Singh said, standing beside Karzai. “Terrorism is the biggest threat.”

An enhanced Indian role in Afghanistan is also being encouraged by the United States that is on its way out of the country

"The U.S. is now willing to let India play a larger role in Afghanistan, and certainly Afghanistan wants it," said Lalit Mansingh, a former Indian foreign secretary and ambassador to Washington. "After years of being sidelined, India is now regarded very much as part of the solution."