India referred to itself as a “contiguous” neighbour of Afghanistan to underline that parts of its territory in Jammu and Kashmir were under illegal occupation of Pakistan

India on Saturday pledged to build two new roads to signal its long-term commitment to the reconstruction of Afghanistan, even as the United States inked a peace-deal with Afghan Taliban in Doha to set the stage for withdrawal of all foreign forces from the conflict-ravaged country within the next 14 month position that parts of its territory in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) continued to be illegally occupied by Pakistan. Even as President Donald Trump's administration in Washington D.C. acknowledged the role of Imran Khan's Government's in Islamabad in brokering the US-Taliban deal, New Delhi subtly reminded that it was Pakistan which had been sponsoring terrorism both in India and Afghanistan.

“Both our nations have been the victims of state-sponsored terrorism,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote in a letter to Afghan President M Ashraf Ghani, congratulating him for his recent re-election to the top office in Kabul. “Under your leadership, we would take our cooperation to new heights to enhance security and fight terrorism in the region,'' the letter reads.

The Prime Minister's letter was handed over to Afghan President by Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, who was on a tour to Kabul on Friday and Saturday. New Delhi committed to spend $ 10.7 million to build two roads in Afghanistan, despite being concerned over the prospect of the US-Taliban deal and withdrawal of the US-led forces from the country eventually resulting in a “strategic edge” for Pakistan in the region and a “security threat” to India. “India's consistent policy is to support all opportunities that can bring peace, security and stability in Afghanistan, end violence, cut ties with international terrorism, and lead to a lasting political settlement through an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled process,” Raveesh Kumar, the spokesperson of the Ministry of External Aairs (MEA), stated in New Delhi.

He was reacting to the US-Taliban deal inked in Doha as well as the joint declaration between Afghan and US Governments in Kabul about the withdrawal of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from the country within 14 months. “As a contiguous neighbour, India will continue to extend all support to the Government and people of Afghanistan in realising their aspirations for a peaceful, democratic and prosperous future where the interest of all sections of Afghan society are protected,” Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson of the MEA, said in New Delhi. India referred to itself as a “contiguous” neighbour of Afghanistan to underline that parts of its territory in Jammu and Kashmir were under illegal occupation of Pakistan.

The “Gilgit-Baltistan” adjacent to so-called “Azad Kashmir” borders Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan. Both “Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir” are under the control of Pakistan at present.

India is to keep building infra in Afghanistan. It reasserted its claim on J&K areas occupied by Pakistan Modi Government in New Delhi on August 5, 2019 moved to strip Jammu and Kashmir of its special status and reorganized the state into two Union Territories. It raised its pitch over the past few months about wresting control over India's areas currently under illegal occupation of Pakistan. New Delhi reiterated its position on Saturday, even as the US inked a deal with the Taliban – a deal for which President Donald Trump's administration in Washington D.C. relied on Prime Minister Imran Khan's government in Islamabad, particularly over the past few months, causing unease in India.

The US on Saturday acknowledged Pakistan as its “important partner” in the eort to clinch the peace-deal with the Taliban. India earlier on the day signed agreements to construct two roads in Balkh and Bamiyan provinces of Afghanistan. Shringla was present, as India's ambassador to Afghanistan, Vinay Kumar, and Afghan Deputy Minister for Finance, Zadran Sahib, signed the agreements in Kabul. The road New Delhi will build in Mazar-e-Sharif in Balkh province of Afghanistan is about two kilometer-long, while the one in Bamiyan is a 16-kilometre-long highway from Bandiamir to Yakawlang. India over the past few years contributed over $ 3 billion to support the reconstruction of infrastructure in Afghanistan. It, however, refrained from sending troops to Afghanistan and kept its military support to the conflict-hit country limited to providing training to officials and soldiers of Afghan National Army and the supply of non-lethal defence hardware.

It was in December 2015 that India started providing MI-25 helicopters to give some teeth to the Afghan Air Force. New Delhi, however, has been concerned over the US-led peace-process in Afghanistan as it is likely to lead to the integration of the Taliban into the governance structure in the conflict-torn South Asian nation.

India has been worried about the possibility of Taliban re-imposing strict Sharia Law in Afghanistan, apart from providing support to terrorist organizations, which carry out attacks in India from bases in Pakistan. Pakistan has since long been jittery about India's role in the reconstruction of conflict-torn Afghanistan. The terror outfits based in Pakistan carried out several attacks on India's embassy and consulates in Afghanistan in the past, including the one in Mazar-e-Sharif, where one of the roads New Delhi agreed to build would come up. The other road New Delhi would build was not far from where the famous ancient Bamiyan Buddha statues had stood before they had been destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. 3/1/2020 India to keep building infra in Afghanistan, reasserts claim on J&K areas occupied by Pakistan.

This is the first time when New Delhi sent a serving diplomat to attend an event, where the leaders and emissaries of Afghan Taliban were also present. New Delhi had no official contact with the Taliban ever since the radical militia took over Afghanistan in 1996.

New Delhi's decision to send a serving diplomat to the US-Taliban deal signing ceremony in Doha on Saturday indicated a subtle change in New Delhi's approach – apparently prompted by the need to wake up to the emerging reality of Taliban's return to power structure in Afghanistan.

Courtesy : Deccan Herald

Deccan Herald