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India strongly supports Afghanistan, Pentagon tells Congress

PTI | Last Updated: Friday, November 8, 2013 - 23:09

Washington: India continues to strongly support Afghanistan and views a secure and stable regime in Kabul as vital to its regional security and economic interests, the Pentagon informed the US Congress on Friday.

"The Indian government continues to strongly support Afghanistan, having pledged USD 2 billion in developmental assistance since 2001. India views a secure and stable Afghanistan as vital to its regional security and economic interests," the Pentagon said in a six-monthly report to the Congress released today.

"India and Afghanistan signed a strategic partnership agreement in 2011, which formalised cooperation on governance, economics, commerce, education, public administration, and security and law enforcement," it said.

The US, India, and Afghanistan launched a trilateral dialogue in 2012 to consult on regional political and economic issues, the Pentagon said adding that India supports a variety of high-visibility projects and initiatives in Afghanistan.

"Indian assistance is primarily focused on major infrastructure projects (Salma dam, Parliament building), power infrastructure, and road construction," the report said, adding that in a broadening of its focus from development to investment, India`s SAIL Consortium was awarded 75 percent of the rights at Bamyan Province`s Hajigak iron ore mine in November 2011.

India is also active in regional forums, such as the Istanbul process, and has organised private sector conferences to boost investment in Afghanistan, it said.

On Pakistan, the report said the US continues to seek a relationship with Islamabad that is constructive and mutually beneficial, and that advances both US-Pak interests.

But sanctuaries in Pakistan from which the Taliban launch attacks into Afghanistan remain a serious problem, mainly in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), it said.

"Pakistan has demonstrated a willingness to cooperate on some key US goals, although challenges remain," the report said adding that Pakistan has publicly committed to playing a positive role in an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process, and Pakistan`s support has been essential to US operations as it prepares for the drawdown in Afghanistan.

"In an important sign of bilateral cooperation, in September 2013, Pakistan released a high-ranking Taliban prisoner, Mullah Baradar, at President (Hamid) Karzai`s request," the report said.

Still, there are limits to Pakistan`s cooperation, the Pentagon report said.

"Afghan-focused insurgent groups that attack US and coalition forces continue to operate from Pakistan. The IED threat emanating from Pakistan remains significant," it said.

"Cross-border incidents remain a point of friction in Pakistan-Afghanistan relations, but have also prompted both countries to increase their engagement and coordination on border issues during this reporting period," it said.

First Published: Friday, November 8, 2013 - 23:09
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