India to pledge Afghanistan more aid
NEW DELHI (PAN): Top Indian officials on Wednesday confirmed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was planning to visit Afghanistan in coming days, but declined to provide precise dates for security concerns.
However, think tanks in India and USA see the imminent trip a good opportunity for India to help stabilise the war-ravaged nation and gather more information on terrorism, especially after the Osama episode that put Pakistan in a spot over its commitment to fight terror on its soil.
Officials in New Delhi say Singh will travel to Afghanistan within a few days, next week, to strengthen the bilateral and strategic ties. Analysts feel the visit assumes significance after the killing of Osama in a safe house in Pakistan’s garrison town of Abbottabad by the US Navy Seals and CIA operatives.
The May 2 killing of A Qaeda leader in Pakistan and its impact on the wider fight against terrorism in the area would also be a focus of discussions, officials said. Singh had visited Afghanistan as the Prime Minister in 2005.
India's mainstream dailies like Indian Express say Singh will pledge more aid to Afghanistan and might make some big-ticket announcements during his visit.
New Delhi was planning to offer an additional 100 million dollars of aid during the trip to help rebuild Afghanistan, the Hindustan Times reported. The money would mostly go for public institutions, it said, citing a senior official.
Indiais one of the leading donors in Afghanistan, spending about 1.3 billion dollars toward rebuilding the country since the 2001 ouster of the Taliban regime.
Indian-funded projects include roads, railways, schools and hospitals. India is also building Kabul's new parliament.
Experts say India has reasons to be worried over a US withdrawal from Afghanistan in the wake of Osama’s killing and leaving the nation exposed to domination by Pakistan-nourished Taliban terrorists who can target India.
“This visit was scheduled before but now it will be a good opportunity to exchange notes on terrorism and terrorists. India can elicit more information on the ground situation in the tribal regions,” says B Raman, former chief of India’s spy agency, the RAW (Research and Analysis Wing).
“India can gather more information on the Pashtun terrorism. It is something on which only Afghanistan can enrich India,” he said, adding that the killing of Osama bin Laden surely will have a bearing on the Taliban.
According to Dr. Ajai Sahni of the Institute for Conflict Management, the visit or any visit of Indian prime minister to Afghanistan should not be seen only through the prism of Pakistan or terrorism alone.
“Our ties are historical. India wants to see a stable Afghanistan. Every survey has showed that Afghanistan loves India. So it is not that India wants to gain anything from there, but wants to see that the asset that we have from the love of Afghanistan for India is retained"." The stability in the region is only thing India hopes for,” he says.
According to DeWayne P. Frazier, associate professor of political science in Campbellsville University in USA, India’s sphere of influence of in Afghanistan and the visit of Manmohan Singh will have a stabilizing effect.
“A strong and vibrant Afghanistan with a growing middle class benefits the entire region. By engaging the Afghan people through economic development, India is helping stabilising the region,” Frazier says.
“Unfortunately, for many years the main cash crop in Afghanistan has been opium and no economy can be based on illegal activity,” he says, holding that India can help the war-torn nation with more economic activity.
According to various estimates, about 4,000 Indians are engaged in various construction activities and medical facilities in Afghanistan.
The Taliban had carried out several attacks on Indians and Indian interests in Afghanistan in the past years, including an attack on its embassy in Kabul in 2008.
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