India likely to continue supporting Afghanistan despite US drawdown: Pentagon
Washington, Jul 13 : India is likely to continue supporting Afghanistan with its financial and other assistance despite the US’ troop withdrawal to limit the Taliban, Pakistani and Chinese influence, the Pentagon has told the Congress.
In its latest report to the Congress on Friday, the Pentagon said a significant deterioration of security conditions in Afghanistan, however, may adversely affect the ability of India to provide aid to the war-torn country.
With USD 3 billion in aid since 2001, India remains the largest regional donor to Afghanistan, the report said.
“In the event of a US drawdown in Afghanistan, India likely will attempt to continue its support to Afghanistan and try to limit Taliban, Pakistani, and Chinese influence,” the Pentagon said.
India desires a stable Afghanistan that does not harbour terrorists who could target Indian interests and does not have close ties with Pakistan, it said.
“There are no reports indicating that India has taken any serious action during the reporting period that would affect the situation in Afghanistan,” the Pentagon said.
It said that in the 1990s, India supported the former Northern Alliance and maintains contact with Afghan power brokers.
India has transferred a total of eight Mi-35 helicopters to the Afghan Air Force, four during 2015/2016 and four more during 2018.
“This aid marks a significant departure from India’s previous policy of providing only non-lethal military assistance,” the Pentagon told the Congress.
“Pakistani sensitivities towards Indian involvement in the country ultimately limited the assistance. Additionally, the Indian military provides procurement and training support to help professionalise the Afghan military and to improve its vehicle maintenance capabilities,” it said.
However, Indian aid to Afghanistan focuses primarily on four main categories: humanitarian assistance, major infrastructure projects, small and community-based projects, and education and capacity development, the report said.
US President Donald Trump in his new South Asia strategy unveiled in August 2017 had sought a major role for India in bringing peace in Afghanistan.
He had accused Pakistan of giving “safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror,” and said the time had come “for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilisation, order, and to peace”.
In December last year, Trump had announced that the US would pull out troops from Afghanistan.
The US still has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan, nearly 18 years after the US-led invasion to topple the Taliban.