Karzai travels to India amid regional tension

Published: October 4, 2011

A combination of file photos shows Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (L) during a visit to the presidential palace in Kabul on May 12, 2011, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai (R) at the Presidential palace in Kabul on September 22, 2011. PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI: Afghan President Hamid Karzai begins a two-day visit to India on Tuesday that could boost the two countries’ economic ties and lead to an agreement for India to train police in a visit likely to irk Pakistan as tension grows in the region.

(Read: When Karzai comes to Delhi)

India is one of Afghanistan’s biggest bilateral donors, having pledged about $2 billion since the 2001 US led-invasion, for projects from the construction of highways to the building of the Afghan parliament.

India wants to ensure a withdrawal of US troops by 2014 does not lead to a kind of 1990s civil war that spreads militancy across borders. But it also knows its traditional foe Pakistan has far greater influence in Afghanistan.

Karzai’s visit, in which he will meet Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has been scheduled for months.

But it comes as Afghanistan appears increasingly frustrated with Pakistan, with many senior officials accusing its intelligence agency of masterminding the assassination last month of Burhanuddin Rabbani, Kabul’s chief peace negotiator with the Taliban.

Karzai himself has said there is a Pakistani link to the killing, and investigators he appointed believe the assassin was Pakistani and the suicide bombing was plotted in the Pakistani city of Quetta.

“At this juncture, the visit will cause great heartburn in Islamabad,” said Saeed Naqvi, a fellow at the Observer Research Foundation think-tank in New Delhi.

“That is unfortunate from the Indian perspective because anything achieved in the visit will be seen by Pakistan as an insult.”

Wary of Pakistan, Indian officials have always said they want to focus on what they like to call “soft power” – economic aid and trade. But India could offer more security training to Afghanistan, something almost certain to annoy Pakistan.

India has already trained a small number of officers from the Afghan National Army at defence institutions in India.

Economic focus

But India treads carefully. It suspects Pakistan involvement in several major attacks, including two bombings of its embassy in Kabul in 2008 and 2009, seen as warnings from Islamabad to stay away from its traditional “backyard”.

Without a land border with Afghanistan and dependent on Pakistan for any overland trade, India knows it influence is limited.

“India will want to play its part in keeping Afghanistan stable, but it is focusing mainly on economic ties,” said C. Raja Mohan, senior fellow at New Delhi’s Centre for Policy Research. “It does not does not see itself as a counterbalance to Pakistan. It knows that Pakistan is setting the terms there.”

Karzai may also be wary of upsetting Pakistan, a country crucial for forging any peace deal with the Taliban.

“Karzai wants to sign a strategic deal with India during his trip but it may hurt his recent call on peace talks with Pakistan,” said Ahmad Saidi, a Kabul-based political analyst.

“If Afghanistan want to move forward with a peace process, it should attract Pakistan’s attention.”

India does have historical ties to former Northern Alliance leaders who battled the Taliban in the 1990s.

Some believe that India could increase its influence with these leaders if Afghanistan moves back toward civil war.

But for the moment, trade appears to be what matters.

A consortium led by state-run Steel Authority of India (SAIL) could invest up to $6 billion in mines, railroads and a steel plant in a race with China to lock in raw materials for two of the world’s fastest-growing economies.

The contract for the Hajigak iron ore mines in Bamiyan province is potentially the single biggest foreign investment project in Afghanistan.

 

 

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Reader Comments (28)

  • A J Khan
    Oct 4, 2011 - 12:36PM

    Beside his official agenda, Hamid Karzai must also be looking for place to settle after his departure from Presidency. Previously he lived in Quetta (Pakistan) but the situation may not be the same for him now. His neighbors were pleasantly surprised when he was catapulted in the presidential palace by USA.
    Wish you would remain trustworthy to India and not forgot as you did with the people of Pakistan who shared their comforts from their meager resources with you and millions of other unthankful Afghans.

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  • John B
    Oct 4, 2011 - 12:36PM

    Does it ever occur to anyone that India might calm Karzai’s anxiety and assure him that neither India nor PAK want the Taliban in Afghanistan and PAK at the moment does not know how to deal with the Taliban idiots due to domestic politics?

    Taliban now hates PAK army and wants revenge.

    Taliban wants to talibanize PAK and no one in PAK wants that including the army.

    Taliban in PAK can generate some electoral votes but political parties are weary after the red mosque incident and the suicide bombings, sectarian violence, and assassinations. Recommend

  • Beta
    Oct 4, 2011 - 12:43PM

    Afghans are smart to choose between world’s 9th highest economy and 10th failed state.

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  • Iceman
    Oct 4, 2011 - 1:27PM

    I fail to understand why Indian govt is investing in this sinking ship. Even if it recovers, Afghanistan will become another Bangladesh i.e., a thankless neighbor. It will conveniently forget India’s contributions.

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  • Nasir
    Oct 4, 2011 - 1:42PM

    Just trying to find safe exit from presidential palace same as US… No one can eat the apples in Afghanistan without a due share of Pakistan. Afghanistan has nothing to loose nor is Pakistan but Indian investments may be at risk.

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  • Diogenes
    Oct 4, 2011 - 1:44PM

    If it’s none of India’s business if Pakistan and China strengthen their friendship, then how is it any of Pakistan’s business if India and Afghanistan strengthen their friendship?

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  • Gul Khan
    Oct 4, 2011 - 1:52PM

    @A J Khan: I think he is US nationality holder, so he would choose to live in US.

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  • fighting falcon
    Oct 4, 2011 - 1:55PM

    iceman ! you dont understand why india invest here..you see, if afghanistan goes back to 1990s situation like complete control of taliban like pakistan wanted. again south asia become hot bed of global terrorism and every other terrorist including kashmiri outfit, will head to afghan to get trained. to avoid this, india need to toe with afghan govt, keep him in job, and make sure such stuff doesnt happen..it is for the sake of future india, future south asia, and future world…

    otherwise, these billion dollar investment, wont pay back in dollar again. there might be some metal deposit in afghanistan which afghan would love to give it to india for exploration, but considering grave situation , no one can touch that land, unless terrorist are completely eliminated. I remember, when i lived in bangalore, and in my fitness club i met a young afghan boy doing my study on a indian govt scholarship.. i heard lot of stories about afghanistan through him..so there is also some human side to it too…

    basically, we are playing tug of war…. pakistan on one side and india, usa and nato on otherside, and the rope being the afghanistan..

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  • Gul Khan
    Oct 4, 2011 - 2:12PM

    @fighting falcon

    I Do Not think this is the reason.
    In 1990′s how many bombs were exploded in India and Kashmir? and how many Indian were killed by Mujahideen either in India or Kashmir? I think if you sum up all that would be a lot less than those who are killed in only one week in Pakistan these days.
    Basically India’s investment in Afghanistan is used in funding terrorists who do various terrorist activities in Pakistan. If India stops investing in Afghanistan, it would be again peace everywhere in the region like 1990′s.
    Over 60% Indians are living below the poverty line. I would suggest to Indians to pressure their government to feed and provide shelter to those poor Indians who born, grow and finally die on footpaths.

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  • Ghaznavi
    Oct 4, 2011 - 2:46PM

    We welcome the Indian puppet…. Karzai already knows he is a dead man walking… Now even Kabul is out of his control, he better run to save his sorry behind before Taliban blow it to smithereens..

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  • call me crazy
    Oct 4, 2011 - 2:48PM

    @Gul Khan: i dont believe RAW is competent enough to even draft a list of 50 most wanted let alone fund insurgencies in pakistan.however if they are doing it then kudos to them,it’s payback time to pakistan for what u people have done over the past 25 years in kashmir and previously khalistan..

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  • foruchandan
    Oct 4, 2011 - 3:15PM

    @gul…so all pakis are living in heaven ha….everycountry has poor ppl and everyone are trying(??, thats a questionable thing though) to reduce poverty…atleast we have peace and are ok that we will see tomorrow on footpath…but do pak poor ppl have the same confidence?

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  • Yuri Kondratyuk
    Oct 4, 2011 - 3:18PM

    @Iceman:

    Afghanistan will become another
    Bangladesh i.e., a thankless neighbor

    I agree, no matter how we help or save their lives, they only need to choose between an “infidel” and a “believer”. Makes you question if religion actually makes a better human being.

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  • Samiullah
    Oct 4, 2011 - 3:42PM

    @Gul Khan

    I can see frustration and anxiety in your comment. Do you even know what an investment means? It’s not charity. If Indian companies invest in Afghanistan those companies can make huge profits by mining. In return they’ll provide jobs to Afghans and improve their infrastructure. It’s a win-win.

    Also you need to check latest poverty figures. Indian poverty now stands at 36% and it is likely to drop below 24% by 2015.

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  • Diggvijay Singh
    Oct 4, 2011 - 4:54PM

    “India has already trained a small number of officers from the Afghan National Army at defence institutions in India.”

    Not enough by India. Karazai is here to beg the Indian government to send troops to save his sinking ship. I appeal to our puppet PM to send our army into Afghanistan to save our puppet friend Karzai. We should fight the Taliban and Haqqani network and Alqaida. We have been allies to our puppets for too long, now its time to stand with them; lets create more anarchy in afghanistan. We are also willing to provide sanctuary to 5 Million Afghan refugees in Pakistan and the other 10 Million in Afghanistan.Recommend

  • djkl
    Oct 4, 2011 - 4:55PM

    its justified after all RAW made northern alliance alive in past.

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  • Gul Khan
    Oct 4, 2011 - 5:13PM

    @Samiullah

    Dont be naive. Which companies are you talking about?? Top officials of NATO and Afghan Government are not even secure in Kabul, let alone the rest of the country. The world most powerful NATO is being faced with history’s worst embarrassing defeat. How come Indian’s companies will operate in Afghanistan, when its embassies are not secure in the most secure zone of Kabul. Better India feed their own people rather than thinking of improving afghan infrastructure and giving them jobs.

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  • Ranjit
    Oct 4, 2011 - 5:31PM

    @Iceman:
    I agree 100 %. Look at Bangladeshis now

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  • Feroz
    Oct 4, 2011 - 6:19PM

    Unlike other countries India is investing jn building infrastructure that will survive the test of time. Those jealous will continue to send their trouble makers to kill and bomb the development targets but the Afghan people now clearly can differentiate between friends and foes. India has already won a major victory over the competition with the development activities. When the goal is to win approval of the Afghan people it matters little to India as to who runs that country. The terrorists and their supporters are suffering some heartburn but investing in a countries future will pay handsome dividends. If Pakistan could dump the Taliban and Haqqani network and show some empathy for Afghan suffering its prospects would improve considerably. Backing terrorists can never win a country any friends, not today nor tomorrow.

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  • Mohammad Ali Siddiqui
    Oct 4, 2011 - 6:49PM

    Karzai has gone to India to request for the back support. India’s tone for Pakistan may change any time.
    On side of Pakistan is India and on the other side is Afghanistan. Both of them is been supported by the US.
    Pakistan should put “attention all units” to face the upcoming challenge.

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  • rkfrom USA
    Oct 4, 2011 - 7:04PM

    @Gul Khan:
    India is a leading economic power and is a democracy respected by all civilized nations. Wherea s Pak is a failed state and instead of being thankful, turnsa round and bites them. So dont you worry about India and its problems, first learn to stand on your own feet. . Scared of a growing succeful nation??? ANyway now you are sandwiched between neigbors who know exactly what you are. good luckRecommend

  • Samiullah
    Oct 4, 2011 - 7:17PM

    @Gul Khan

    And that is the reason Afghans hate Pakistan. Everytime Pakistan says “there can be no peace process in Afghanistan without Pakistan”, the world, especially the common Afghans wonder “why”.

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  • Dan
    Oct 4, 2011 - 8:30PM

    @Beta:
    highest or largest, can you please choose an appropriate word. and by the way from where you obtained this figure that India is 9th largest economy. Can you enlighten us about your economics.
    India is fourth in term of GDP PPP and…
    hold your heard
    137th in terms of per capita in the world
    with more poor than those in whole africa
    and 800 million people without access to electricity, almost 5 times of total population of Pakistan.

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  • Sad but true
    Oct 5, 2011 - 12:06AM

    @Ghaznavi: ‘Karzai already knows he is a dead man walking… ‘ With such a blunt threat coming from a Paki, no wonder they are blaming you for Rabbani’s murder.

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  • Bipul Rajput
    Oct 5, 2011 - 12:28AM

    The comments above paint Pakistanis as people whose delusions of grandeur are more than matched by their lack of gray matter.

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  • G. Din
    Oct 5, 2011 - 1:08AM

    @A J Khan:
    “Beside his official agenda, Hamid Karzai must also be looking for place to settle after his departure from Presidency. Previously he lived in Quetta (Pakistan) but the situation may not be the same for him now.”
    You probably have not been told this, or would believe this, but your Quaid-e-Azam, Jinnah, was planning to retire to his home in India but disease and death overtook him. I wonder, if had he survived a year or two and returned to Mumbai (where he had built his home) he would have had to sue the Government of India to get his home back since it had been appropriated as evacuee property when he had left for his “beloved” Pakistan where he did not want to live in hs remaining years!

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  • Logic
    Oct 5, 2011 - 2:27AM

    pakistan was born on 1947,
    Afghanistan-india relaitons goes to centuries history!

    If afghanistan is not friend of pakistan, tell me which country is pakistan’s friend?

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  • Pashtun
    Oct 5, 2011 - 1:57PM

    Karzai is right as he said that Pakistanis and Afghan are brothers. I think every Afghan should be thankful to Pakistani people for the help and support during 90′s when they offered refuge to us. But Afghans differentiate Pakistani people and Pak Govt. (ISI). Afghans hate Pak Govt. and the reason you all know. So just to clear this misunderstanding and on the other hand once India was called as GOLDEN SPARROW, but now Afghanistan is a GOLDEN SPARROW and one who invest here will get profit and one who attack here will get ruined. Best example is Russia and British.

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