US Backs India In Afghanistan But Pakistan Keen To Have A Week, Destabilized Backyard?

The United States said on Thursday that it supported continued Indian involvement in Afghanistan, even as President Donald Trump is contemplating to withdraw troops from the volatile region.

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India is one of the most enthusiastic backers of Afghanistan’s government, contributing more than $3 billion since the 2001 US-led invasion overthrew the Taliban.

“The United States welcomes India’s substantial investment in and assistance to Afghanistan,” said Nancy Izzo Jackson, a State Department official in charge of Afghanistan. “And we will continue to support efforts to achieve an honourable and enduring outcome in Afghanistan that preserves our investment in Afghanistan’s future,” she told a conference on India’s role in Afghanistan at the Hudson Institute.

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“It is also important to deliver the message to terrorists that democracies do not surrender to terrorism and in the ideological battle of the ’emirate’ versus the ‘republic,’ the latter prevails,” he said.

Shringla said India has played a vital role in the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan since 2001. India has completed 400 social infrastructure projects and another 150 were underway.

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All the Indian projects are undertaken in partnership with the Afghan government and are spread across each and every of the 34 provinces of Afghanistan in diverse fields of development, including education, healthcare, infrastructure, administrative capacity, flood control, irrigation, agriculture, sports, he said.

Under our New Development Partnership, several important projects focused on developmental needs and priorities of Afghanistan have been identified for implementation including Shahtoot Dam and drinking water project for Kabul city, low-cost housing for returning Afghan refugees in Nangarhar province, among many others, he said.

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“These projects are a reflection of India’s enduring commitment towards Afghanistan’s reconstruction,” Shringla said, adding, “India is committed to support Afghanistan in its quest to emerge as a united, sovereign, democratic, peaceful, stable, prosperous and inclusive nation.”

However, Pakistan remains fearful of Indian involvement in Afghanistan. Experts in Islamabad have emphasized that Afghan soil should not be used against the interests of Pakistan.

Pakistan’s security establishment, apprehensive of strategic encirclement by India, continues to view the Afghan Taliban as “a relatively friendly and reliably anti-India element in Afghanistan”, says a US Congressional report.

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Pakistan may view a weak and destabilized Afghanistan as a preferable option compared to a powerful, unified Afghan state, especially one led by an ethnic Pashtun-dominated government in Kabul, says a report by the independent and bipartisan Congressional Research Service.

Indian interest in Afghanistan stems largely from India’s broader regional rivalry with Pakistan, which hinders Indian efforts to develop stronger and more direct economic and political relations with Central Asia, the report added.