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'India is wanted by Afghans, that is our strength'

Last updated on: May 12, 2011 10:50 IST

Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh's visit to Kabul assumes more importance in the wake of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's death. During his visit, Dr Singh is expected to reassure Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai that India is a friend who is determined to support their endeavour for stability in the region, reports Sheela Bhatt who is part of the prime minister's media entourage to Afghanistan

Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh's low-key visit to Kabul on Thursday is a visit for "reassurance", said a diplomat who is one of the most well informed officials in New Delhi on Afghanistan. "When Dr Singh meets Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, he is likely to say that India is a friend of Afghanistan and Indians are standing shoulder-to-shoulder in Afghanistan's endeavour for peace and development."

The diplomat dismissed any possibility of a dramatic raise in India's involvement in the ongoing war of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces. "The induction of the Taliban in power is not imminent. They would be first asked to join mainstream politics and public life," he added.

According to him, India will never get involved in the war that has a direct and highly complex impact on its soil. He said a few Western journalists fuel the propaganda that India is getting marginalised in the ongoing negotiations among different stakeholders, but things could be looked at differently, he argues.

"There is a high-level of cooperation between the Karzai government and India for development programmes," he said. Citing an example, he said while building the Delaram highway that connects western Afghanistan's Herat and other important towns and cities to Iran's border, three labourers and three Indo-Tibetan Border Police's jawans have been killed. But while defending the construction workers, 129 Afghan soldiers have also died.

"If Afghans can die while defending Indian personnel we get the feeling that India is wanted by the people of Afghanistan and that is India's strength," he said. While talking about Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's death, the New Delhi official said, "It will surely have an impact that would help allied forces fight the Al Qaeda and Taliban. In the absence of bin Laden, funding from Gulf countries to terror outfits will decline." 

According to the diplomat, NATO forces are likely to go on the offensive. From counter-insurgency they will shift their focus to counter-terrorism. Also, in the frontier areas there will be more force applied and a tactical move to gain control, he added.

He agreed that India has some concerns about the US-led forces' hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan, but he added that there is another side to the story. "Fewer foreign troops on Afghan soil will be hugely welcomed by the Afghan locals. People tend to complicate issues related to Afghanistan but the fact is that Pakistan's safe havens for the Taliban and insurgent groups are real problems, defeating the purpose of 43 countries of the world that are present in Afghanistan," he said.

Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi