“A timeless link of human hearts” was a poetic metaphor that Prime Minister Modi used to describe the relationship between India and Afghanistan after meeting Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in the Indian capital on April 28.
Underlining India’s commitment to reconstruction and resurgence of a modern and stable Afghanistan, Mr Modi, however, had a word of caution for those trying to destabilise a friendly, neighbouring country. In a veiled reference to Pakistan and its covert interference in Afghanistan’s internal affairs, often seen as an attempt to rule Kabul by proxy, the Indian leader pitched for “a positive and constructive approach from neighbours, including an end to support for violence.” The reference was not lost on those closely tracking the intricate geopolitical quagmire in which Afghanistan is entangled.
The fact that Mr Modi said this in front of the Afghan leader is also laden with significance as the New Delhi-Kabul ties have come under stress in recent months following an apparent warming of Mr Ghani towards Pakistan and China, marking a shift from Karzai’s openly critical view of Pakistan and its role in destabilizing Afghanistan.
Mr Modi, on his part, emphasised on India’s ‘enduring commitment’ which was not only ‘limited to the period of transition or the decade of transformation’.
Mr Modi said India and Afghanistan have a ‘shared interest in the success of “an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process.” “This should be conducted within the framework of the Constitution of Afghanistan, without the shadow of violence,” Mr Modi stressed.
In a bid to offset the inroads China is making into South Asia via PoK with massive infrastructure projects like the China-Pakistan economic corridor stretching from Kashgar to Gwadar, Mr Modi highlighted the role India can play in achieving President Ghani’s vision for Afghanistan’s prosperity, that he had shared during the meeting. “We believe that Afghanistan’s direct surface link to India and the rest of South Asia, and increased connectivity to sea, could turn Afghanistan into a hub that connects Asia’s diverse regions and beyond,” he said.
Another significant takeaway was Modi’s declaration of his intent to conclude a bilateral Motor Vehicles Agreement that would facilitate the entry to Afghan trucks at the Integrated Check Post(ICP) at Attari and promote trade. India, he said, was also prepared to join the successor agreement to Afghan Pakistan Trade and Transit Agreement, re-establishing one of the oldest trading routes of South Asia.
India has ploughed in $2 billion in multifarious reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan that includes building the critical Zaranj to Delaram highway, the Afghan parliament, the Salma dam and several hospitals, especially child clinics. India has also contributed immensely in the form technical assistance, training of Afghan National Army officers and parliamentarians. Only a few days ago India decided to deliver three Cheetal Helicopters for non-lethal use, to Afghanistan.
Counter terror cooperation is set to grow stronger in the days to come against the backdrop of a host of recent developments, including the emerging ISIS threat and reports of the Afghan Taliban and the Al-Qaeda conspiring to destabilise the country, with more than a little help from Pakistan’s ISI establishment. Last May, the Indian consulate was attacked and several Indian and Afghan security personnel were killed in the attack. Prime Minister Modi took this opportunity to thank the Afghan security forces,’ who protect our people in Afghanistan as they would their own.’
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