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Afghanistan pitches for making India a party to APTTA

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

Afghanistan today made a strong pitch for making India a party to the already operational Afghan-Pakistan transit and trade agreement (APTTA), a move that will give New Delhi better access to Central Asia and boost regional connectivity.

Afghan envoy Shaida Abdali also sought robust military cooperation with India and referred to training of its officers at the National Defence College here and the recent transfer of helicopters to Afghanistan.

Blaming Pakistan for terror in Afghanistan, he said it is clear that it is coming from "across the border" and cautioned that "terrorism backfires" and affects "all of us equally".

"The distrust between Afghanistan and Pakistan exists today. It's a very dangerous time," he said.

Abdali, who has written a book, 'Afghanistan-Pakistan- India: A Paradigm Shift', talked about four factors behind the instability in his country over the last few years.

These are the pursuit of "geographical impatience" by countries like Pakistan in the region through Afghanistan, activities of non-state armed groups, "weak" Afghanistan government and state institutions, and the link between drug cartels and terrorist groups.

He said Afghanistan has suffered due to "misplaced" and "miscalculated policies".

Abdali also warned that an unstable Afghanistan could be a "threat" to the world order once again as it was the case some time ago.

Holding that peaceful relations between India and Pakistan are crucial for Afghanistan, Abdali said, "Today, we have a very strategic relationship with India and a very strange relationship with Pakistan. That equal partnership is a pre-requisite to a peaceful and stable Afghanistan. We have to examine how Afghanistan can become a catalyst."

"One is India's inclusion to AAPTA and (the second is) giving Pakistan access to Central Asia through Afghanistan," he said, adding that this could be on the lines of cooperation between India, Afghanistan and Iran on the Chabahar port.

APTTA was signed between the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2011. It allows trucks from landlocked Afghanistan access to markets in India, China and the rest of the world through seaports of Karachi, Port Qasim and Gwadar.

On the sidelines of the 'Heart of Asia Conference' held in Islamabad last year, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had expressed India's willingness to join APTTA. Pakistan is opposed to any such move.

Emphasising that India was one of the few countries "without any personal agenda" in Afghanistan, Abdali said his country was looking to increase the number of officers being trained in India.

The Afghan envoy said, "We have a big number of officers


being trained here. It's an ongoing process. Our relationship with India is very comprehensive and at strategic level, in view of the helicopters given to Afghanistan, the military cooperation is picking up."

"And training system that we have with NDC... They train about 200 officers. So Afghanistan is going to expand that in the future," he said.

Abdali said terrorism is a common ground for cooperation between India and Afghanistan.

The envoy said over the last 15 years, the situation in Afghanistan has remained unchanged and the current times require "a new idea".

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Former National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon said strong, viable and visible Afghan-India relations can help improve India's ties with Pakistan.

Menon, a former Foreign Secretary, said he did not agree with the view in Kabul that India prefers normalisation of relations with Pakistan to its relations with Afghanistan.

Menon said he also did not agree with the view in Kabul that India's sensitivity to Pakistan's concerns is stopping it from playing a much bigger role in Afghanistan. "I am not so sure. It is much more complex," he said, asserting that Indo-Afghan ties are based on much stronger logic and that it has survived all twists and turns in the last over 60 years.

The former NSA said the "strange spectacle of" US, China and Pakistan negotiating with Taliban for taking part in government is unlikely to solve the problem and bring stability to Afghanistan and the region as Taliban has no respect for democratic principles or modern government systems.

"We have seen foreign interventions earlier too. This too cannot end differently," Menon said, noting that until there is a meaningful change in Pakistan's policy on terror and using it as a state policy, the situation is very difficult to improve.

Former Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan Vivek Katju, who was in Kabul after the fall of the Taliban government, said India had never imposed its agenda on Afghanistan and it was only interested in the development of the people and the country.

Vikram Sood, former head of RA&W, said after spending more than 60 billion dollars in the last 16 years, the US will not leave Afghanistan without results.

First Published: Wed, June 22 2016. 19:58 IST
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