India has offered to provide more training and reconstruction aid for Afghanistan as most international troops prepare to withdraw next year.
President Pranab Mukherjee told visiting Afghan President Hamid Karzai that India was proud to help, a statement from Mukherjee’s office said on Tuesday.
“India is prepared to increase bilateral contribution to institution-building, training and equipment to the extent India can,” Mukherjee said. The statement did not say whether it would include military aid.
Aimal Faizi, Karzai’s spokesperson, earlier said that Afghanistan would ask for Indian help in the strengthening of its security forces ahead of the withdrawal of international forces.
Karzai also held talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh later on Tuesday.
“I think we should respond positively to Afghan requests for assistance to build the Afghan security forces,” former Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan, Vivek Katju, told Al Jazeera from New Delhi.
“We already have a process of training the Afghan forces in India that can be stepped up, and if the Afghans require equipment to develop their capabilities… we should also have a positive response.”
A 2011 strategic partnership agreement between the two countries includes Indian training of Afghan security forces. Small batches of Afghan soldiers are undergoing training at Indian military schools.
India has invested more than $2bn in Afghan infrastructure, including highways and hospitals and rural electricity projects. It is also helping the Afghan government rebuild its police forces, judiciary and diplomatic services.
New Delhi is hoping to gain some influence in the country after 2014, when Afghan forces are to become responsible for the entire country’s security.
As NATO troops prepare to withdraw, India fears the possibility of the country falling into the hands of a Taliban-led regime, endangering many of India’s interests there.
India, Afghanistan and Iran have been discussing how best to utilise the southeastern Iranian port of Chahbahar and develop road and rail links from there to Afghanistan.
For India, the shortest and most economical route for sending supplies to Afghanistan would be by road through Pakistan. But Pakistan, India’s bitter rival, has denied New Delhi road access to Kabul, making the route through Iran all the more significant.
Karzai, who earned his college degree in India, has visited New Delhi more than a half dozen times in the past few years.