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India has expressed interest in strengthening Afghan army: US

October 29, 2011 10:00 IST

Praising India's "constructive" role in the reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, the Pentagon in a report told the United States Congress that New Delhi has now expressed an interest to help strengthen the capabilities of the Afghan National Security Forces.

"In addition to reconstruction projects, India has expressed an interest to help strengthen the capabilities of the ANSF," Pentagon said in its six-monthly progress report on Afghanistan.

"During his June 2011 visit to New Delhi, Afghan Defence Minister Wardak and Indian Defence Minister A K Antony discussed expanding cooperation to train ANSF personnel. To date, India's security assistance has been limited; India currently provides scholarships for Afghan National Security Force personnel to study in India, and the Indian government is also exploring options to train female Afghan police in India," the report said.

The Pentagon said that Prime Minister Manmohan Singhs' visit to Kabul in May 2011, his first since 2005, underscored India's enduring commitment to diplomatic and development efforts in Afghanistan. During his visit, Singh announced an increase in economic support to the war-torn country to a joint session of the Afghan Parliament.

During the visit, the pledge of an additional USD 500 million in aid, to be spent mainly on development projects, raised India's overall assistance pledge to a total of USD 2 billion.

"In October 2011, PM Singh and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai signed a strategic partnership declaration, which covers governance, economics, commerce, education,  public administration, and security/law enforcement cooperation," the report said.

Indian assistance continues to focus on major infrastructure projects, such as electricity generation and transmission and road construction.

"India is largely responsible for bringing more consistent electricity to Kabul, and Indian funding continues to support the construction of the Salma hydroelectric dam in Heart Province. Construction at Salma, however, is currently behind schedule, with a tentative completion date of late 2012," it said.

According to the Pentagon report, India also supports a variety of smaller-scale projects and initiatives like the Indian Medical Missions in Afghanistan's major cities that serve tens of thousands of Afghans yearly.

India also focuses its assistance on building Afghan human capital through scholarship programmes at Indian Universities (more than 1,000 scholarships per year), agricultural training programmes, and other vocational training activities, it added.

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