US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said India’s decision not to send its own troops to Afghanistan after keeping in mind Pakistan’s consideration.
Mattis said Indian troop deployment in Afghanistan would further boil up the situation and create a new conundrum in the region.
India’s contributions to the war-torn country was praised by Mattis before lawmakers at the House Armed Services Committee. “It is really a very holistic approach that India is taking. You’ll notice I left off (Indian) boots (soldiers) on the ground because of the complexity that would bring to Pakistan,” Mattis said in response to a question from Congressman Doug Lamborn during the Congressional hearing on South Asia.
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“We’re trying to make this an inclusive strategy and we don’t want them to get a sense that they’re vulnerable to any Indian Army people from their western flank, that’s not necessary,” Mattis said.
The Defence Secretary argued that an open border trade between India and Pakistan would help in bringing stability in the region.
“I believe India wants that to happen, but it’s very hard to do that if your concern is that you open the border to one thing, and you get something else,” Mattis said in an oblique reference to cross-border infiltration.
Responding to a series of questions on the Indian role in Afghanistan, Mattis said, "New Delhi has been generous over many years with Afghanistan. Because of its very generous funding over the years, India has achieved a degree of affection from the Afghan people as a result. They intend to continue this effort and broaden it. Furthermore, they are providing training for Afghan military officers and NCOs at their schools."
He further added that India is willing to do rehabilitation of the Soviet era equipment until they replaced with American equipment.
Apart from that India will continue to keep providing training to Afghan Army doctors and medics in the field and deepen their military to military relationship.
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"But it is not an exclusive strategy, exclusive of anyone. Any nation that wants to be part of the counter-terror effort and this stability effort in South Asia, can sign up," he said seeking to allay Pakistan’s concern of being excluded.
US does not need to convince Indians that it doesn’t have nefarious designs on the Indo-Pacific area," Mattis said during his talks with the Indian leadership.
This article originally appeared on The Hindu.