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Why Afghan President's India visit is well-timed

Last updated on: May 16, 2013 02:01 IST

Why Afghan President's India visit is well-timed

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Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai will be in India on a two day visit on May 21.

President Karzai, who has studied in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, will visit a Punjab-based university to attend a public event where his Indian counterpart, Pranab Mukherjee is likely to be present.  

The importance of Karzai's visit is in its timing.

What United States Secretary of State John Kerry terms as the "complicated circle" (of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan), the issue of engagement with Afghanistan is always of significance.

Come 2014, the US will start withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan. All eyes will be on the US, its NATO allies and the new security paradigm in Afghanistan. 

During his bilateral talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi, Karzai is likely to take up the security issue and assess how India could help beyond carrying out development projects and efforts to rebuild the Afghan economy.  

Karzai's visit also comes amidst a number of diplomatic developments in and around New Delhi -- Nawaz Sharief has just taken over the reins of power in Pakistan; China's new leadership is unfolding its future plans in the region and its Premier, Li Keqiang is arriving in New Delhi on May 19 on his first-ever official visit after taking over; a week later, on May 27, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is leaving for Japan and Bangkok.

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Photographs: Reuters

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Karzai, the great survivor, has been at the helm of Kabul since 2004.

Elections in Afghanistan are scheduled for 2014.

Karzai faced an acutely embarrassing situation last month when reports emerged that the US Central Intelligence Agency had been, for many years, delivering large amount of cash to him in sacks.

Unfazed by the news reports, Karzai turned the spotlight on the ironical situation that exists in Afghanistan today.

Karzai felt no shame. He said that the 'petty cash' paid by the CIA helped him pay rent for various officials, fund scholarships and treating injured presidential palace guards.

He also admitted that he used the CIA money to pay "political elites" (meaning war lords and, may be, opium growers).  

Karzai left the Americans aghast when he went to the extent to say, "I told him (the CIA. station chief in Kabul) because of all these rumours in the media, please do not cut all this money; we really need it."

Notwithstanding how he deals with the CIA money, Karzai's India visit can never be dull and will always be significant.


Photographs: Reuters

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