The president of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai has reached out to Pakistan following concerns in Islamabad over warmer relations between Kabul and New Delhi.
Karzai signed a strategic partnership agreement with India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday under which the Indian government will provide assistance to Afghanistan following the departure of foreign troops in 2014. That is on top of the $2 billion India has already promised Afghanistan for infrastructure upgrades in the war-ravaged nation.
By comparison, Pakistan has pledged $330 million to the Afghans.
Pakistan is a twin brother, India is a great friend,” Karzai said in a statement. “The agreement that we signed yesterday with our friend will not affect our brother.”
While the visit to India had been planned for months, relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have become increasingly frayed, partially due to a spate of attacks on Afghan targets believed to be carried out by Haqqani militants (the terror network that senior U.S. military officials claim have direct links to Pakistan’s intelligence agency, ISI).
During a lecture in India on Wednesday, Karzai explained: This strategic partnership [between India and Afghanistan]... is not directed against any country... this strategic partnership is to support Afghanistan.”
However, Afghanistan’s relationship with India appears to be deepening. According to reports, Indian technological experts have restored telecom networks in almost a dozen Afghan provinces. Military officers from the Afghan National Army are already undergoing training at defense colleges in India.
Karzai’s new pact with India will also reportedly include a greater commitment by Delhi to provide more security and police training within Afghanistan itself. The underlying theme is that India is seeking to integrate Afghanistan more into the broader economy of South Asia, which India, of course, dominates.
Prime Minister Singh expressed to Karzai that Indians could sympathize with the plight of Afghans who endure the fear of terrorism and specifically referred to the recent assassination of Afghan peace envoy Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was seeking to broker peace with the Taliban.
Rabbani was our guest in India in July and we were greatly encouraged by his vision, Singh said in a statement.
His brutal assassination should... strengthen our resolve to jointly confront the menace of terrorism.
Karzai responded that he is grateful for India's help and assured that Kabul will cooperate with the US, Europe and India to safeguard Afghanistan's future.
Still, questions persist about Karzai’s attitude towards the Pakistanis, whom he has accused of waging a ‘double-game’ in Afghanistan. Both Karzai and India are deeply worried about a breakdown in security in Afghanistan after western forces depart.