Karzai arrives with military aid in mind

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NEW DELHI, December 13: Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai arrived here on Thursday for a four-day visit during which he will hold talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on military assistance, regional help to stabilise his country and economic opportunities for India.

On the security front, Afghanistan had requested India for lethal weapons but is equally keen on a permanent partnership in the form of a military finishing institution like the Afghan National Army officers academy, which is modelled on the U.K.’s Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

Officials here expect talks on both issues — academy and military aid — to be discussed for some time before a final decision is reached. India has issues relating to capacity, including a shortage of army officers and will, therefore, find itself stretched to meet the Afghan request for a training institution. On weapons, there is the issue of confidentiality agreement with its original suppliers and the apprehension about the equipment falling into the hands of the opposition.

In separate meetings, Mr. Karzai is expected to brief Dr. Singh and External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid about his interactions with the major players on the Afghan chessboard, including the U.S. and Pakistan.

The economic side of the visit will be on display in Pune on Saturday evening when Mr. Karzai will interact with Indian businessmen from all the three apex chambers of commerce. India has ambitious plans that will help both countries in reaching out to their extended neighbourhood while bypassing Pakistan. These include plans for a rail link beginning from an Iranian port into Afghanistan and leading up to a massive iron ore project allocated to India. Another project entails ensuring connectivity from the same Iranian port into some Central Asian countries via Afghanistan.

An official Afghan news release said Mr. Karzai’s trip to India is meant to discuss ways to enhance bilateral relations.

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