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Inside Story

Afghanistan: Stirring Indo-Pak tensions?

We discuss India's growing influence in Afghanistan, and what it means for the volatile region.

Last Modified: 21 May 2013 11:46
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Afghan President Hamid Karzai is in India, seeking military aid at a time when tensions are running high on Afghanistan's disputed border with Pakistan.

We have noted a great distrust amongst the Pakistanis and the Afghans and the fact that the Pakistani military is obsessed with the idea of strategic depth in Afghanistan; and the question of sanctuaries [for armed groups] is something that the Afghans have perpetually been telling the Pakistanis about. 

General Ashok Mehta, a retired Indian army officer

Kabul's overtures to New Delhi are likely to rile Islamabad, where a new government led by two-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is set to take office soon, promising improved ties with India.

Pakistan has long resisted Indian involvement in Afghanistan, seeing it as a plan to encircle it, and any fresh wrangling between the rivals would add to Afghanistan's problems as the Western military withdrawal draws near.

Meanwhile, Karzai wants India to increase military aid to Afghanistan.

The two countries have already been cooperating in a number of ways.

India has been training small numbers of Afghan officers at its military academies for years. And in 2011, New Delhi signed a strategic partnership with Kabul that will increase joint training once NATO troops leave Afghanistan in 2014.

Officials say a deal to buy Indian artillery and aircraft is up for discussion on this trip.

India has already invested heavily in Afghanistan's civilian infrastructure. It has spent $2bn to build infrastructure such as roads, hospitals and electricity projects. 

Karzai's visit to India comes at a time when Afghanistan's relations with neighbouring Pakistan appear to be deteriorating. 

Earlier this month, a skirmish along the border between the two countries - known as the Durand Line - killed an Afghan policeman. Kabul says Pakistan sparked the violence by using tanks and heavy artillery to attack Afghan border posts.

Pakistan says it was the result of unprovoked Afghan action. The neighbours are also accusing each other of providing sanctuary to militant groups. 

So, what does India’s growing influence in Afghanistan mean for this volatile region?

To discuss this, Inside Story, with presenter Laura Kyle, is joined by guests: Haseeb Humayoon, a member of the Central Council of Afghanistan 1400; General Ashok Mehta, a retired officer in the Indian army. who is also a convener of the India-Afghanistan Policy Group; and Zahid Hussain, a journalist and author of the book: The Scorpion's Tail: The Relentless Rise of Islamic Militants in Pakistan - And How It Threatens America.

"Pakistan does not have any objections to Afghanistan having relations with India ... but certainly it will be a cause of concern depending on the nature of the weapons and what kind of military cooperation is being done between the two countries. Pakistan will be looking very carefully at what is going to happen."

- Zahid Hussain, journalist and author 

 

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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