US hopes India will persuade Hamid Karzai to ink agreement
Washington: With Hamid Karzai stonewalling every US effort to conclude a bilateral security agreement, the Obama Administration is pinning its hopes on India to persuade the Afghan President to sign the deal and end the current political imbroglio on the issue.
A top Obama Administration official has described Karzai`s scheduled visit to India later this week visit as important from the perspective of the US.
"His upcoming visit to India could, I think, be quite influential because he highly respects and has good relations with the Indian government," James Dobbins, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, told members of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations committee.
US President Barack Obama had personally sought Indian help when he met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the White House in September.
Following the meeting, National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon had a separate meeting with his US counterpart Susan Rice, sources said.
The issue is again believed to have come up for discussion when Secretary of State John Kerry and Deputy Secretary of State William Burns met visiting Indian Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh at the State Department.
However, it is not known yet, what kind of help India is providing behind the scenes for Afghanistan and the US to ink the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA).
Responding to questions, Dobbins told Senators most of the Afghan neighbours with the exception of Iran have encouraged Karzai to sign the BSA.
"Afghanistan`s regional neighbours, with the exception of Iran, also understand the importance of the BSA. I understand that President Putin of Russia, President Xi of China, Prime Minister Singh of India and Prime Minister Sharif of Pakistan have all personally urged President Karzai to conclude this agreement," Dobbins said.
He said the US is working with other Afghan neighbours in this regard.
"We are engaged with the neighbouring countries. President Karzai has just visited Iran, but he`s also in I think three days from now going to be visiting India, where he`ll meet with the Prime Minister and other leaders in India. He`s visiting Turkey shortly thereafter," Dobbins said.
"We`ve already mentioned what Russia, what China, what Pakistan have said," he said.
"So I think that with the exception of Iran, there is quite a remarkable, actually, international consensus that while the US shouldn`t stay forever, it should stay for a while longer," Dobbins said, adding that the BSA is the keystone of a much wider international commitment involving over 70 countries ready to provide economic and security assistance to Afghanistan beyond 2014.
"Several of these leaders are no fans of an American military presence in Central Asia, but they all seem to recognise that without continued international military and economic support, Afghanistan risks falling back into civil war with the attendant rise in extremist groups, outflow of refugees and disruptions in commerce that would threaten the region as a whole," Dobbins said.
He expressed optimism about the conclusion of the agreement, saying, "Given this coincidence of Afghan public and regional governmental opinion, I see little chance that the BSA will not be eventually concluded."
Awaiting the arrival of the next Afghan president to do so, however, will impose large and unnecessary costs on the Afghan people, he argued.
"Already, the anxiety caused by President Karzai`s refusal to heed the advice of the loya jirga is having such an effect," Dobbins said.
"While in Kabul last week, I learned from the World Bank and other sources that the Afghan currency is slipping in value, inflation is increasing, capital fleeing, property values dropping. Probably for the first time since 2001, the outflow of Afghan population exceeds the return of refugees," he said.
Dobbins warned that prolonged uncertainty over the BSA will also erode larger international support for Afghanistan.
"At Tokyo in July 2012 and in Chicago in May of that year, the international community pledged billions in support of the Afghan security forces and the Afghan economy beyond 2014," he said.
"As in the US, the fulfilment of these pledges is dependent on public support and parliamentary approval. Prolonged delay in concluding the BSA and the also-required NATO equivalent agreement can only diminish the prospect that these pledges will be fully met," Dobbins said.
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