India to balance ties with Pakistan and Afghanistan
ADDU, Maldives / SINGAPORE
Pakistan’s FM Hina Rabbani Khar (R) shakes hands with her Indian counterpart, Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna in this file photo. Krishna said that the ‘trust deficit’ with Pakistan was shrinking and that they should now look at a ‘joint strategy’ to fight terror. REUTERS PhotoThe foreign ministers of India and Pakistan said yesterday that trust between their countries had improved, providing the foundation for a renewed push at their troubled peace process.
India’s S.M. Krishna and his counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar arrived at a South Asian regional summit in the Maldives speaking optimistically of the improvements in ties achieved during talks over the last few months.
Referring to a “very positive atmosphere” between the countries, Krishna said that the “trust deficit” with Pakistan was shrinking and that they should now look at a “joint strategy” to fight terror. “I think our relationship with Pakistan is becoming a little more stable than what it was before,” Krishna said.
Khar, appearing briefly before reporters, also said that the environment was improved ahead of bilateral talks between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Yousuf Raza Gilani, Pakistan Prime Minister. “I can certainly say from our side that we look at this environment to have improved considerably. The trust deficit that typically existed between the two countries for many, many years has been reduced to a large order,” she said.
Relations between the nuclear-armed countries hit rock bottom in the wake of the 2008 attacks on Mumbai in which 166 people were killed by militants from the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) extremist group.
Strategic partnership with Afghanistan
While India tries to repair ties with Pakistan, the country is also planning to cooperate with Afghanistan on various fields. India and Afghanistan signed a wide-ranging strategic partnership deal last month, leading to suspicion in Pakistan which is vehemently opposed to its arch-foe meddling in what it considers its backyard.
Up until now India has mainly provided discreet training to Afghan security forces in an unstructured manner, with officers attending largely theoretical courses. Once, in 2007, two platoon-sized units of 30 men each were trained. But the new agreement sets the stage for a formal Indian involvement in boosting Afghan security forces beyond 2014, when foreign combat troops will withdraw, leaving Afghans to fight a Taliban insurgency now at its most potent in 10 years of war.
Officials say India plans to train Afghan army combat units at top counter-insurgency schools. India may also provide light weapons to the Afghan army and train pilots and ground staff for Afghanistan’s small air force. On Nov. 6 Ex-Pakistan leader Pervez Musharraf hit out at Afghan President Hamid Karzai for forging a training alliance with India, saying Islamabad had offered him similar help but been rebuffed.
The agreement also represents a re-ordering of regional alliances, with the United States seen to have backed the India-Afghan pact after the fraying of its relationship with Pakistan, which it blames for sheltering militants fighting in Afghanistan.
Compiled from AFP, AP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.