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Delhi sits on Kabul request

Hamid Karzai

New Delhi, Nov. 24: An Afghan government request to India to help set up a military training institution for its army — a move that would help New Delhi to increase its strategic footprint in that country as the US pulls out next year — is set to fall through because of concerns over security.

India has trained more than 1,000 Afghan National Army officers in its own institutions in recent years. Next month, to mark traditional army-to-army ties, the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun will host a reunion of Afghan officers who were cadets at the IMA in 1974.

The proposal from Kabul for the establishment of a military institute was made earlier this year during the visit of President Hamid Karzai in the hope that work on the facility would start within months and much of it would be done with the US and Nato drawdown.

The US is Afghanistan’s leading partner-country to train the Afghan National Army. Quieter moves in the past to deploy Indian military trainers in Afghanistan were rejected because the US was worried that Pakistan would object.

Now, however, Kabul has conveyed to New Delhi that the ANA was unhappy with the training of its officers in Pakistan and would like India to post training faculty in an institution preferably outside the Afghan capital in the country’s south.

But assessments in India indicate a high level of threat from the Taliban and the possibility of increased attacks on Indians post the US drawdown.

New Delhi has not yet rejected the proposal outright but the security risks are assessed to be too grave.

Taliban outfits have attacked the Indian embassy in Kabul in the past, the Indian consulate in Jalalabad and Indian civilians working on development projects.

A road that India’s Border Roads Organisation built and handed over to Afghanistan in 2008 — Route 606 between Zaranj and Delaram in Nimroze province — is all but inaccessible now.

Indian engineers and workers were attacked by the Taliban during the building of the road. A strategic project, the road helps connect Iran’s Chabahar port to Afghanistan’s Garland Highway.

Afghanistan has also asked India for supplies of weapons and vehicles for its army and for training in counter-insurgency and de-mining operations.

The ANA wants about 100 tanks, a similar number of Indian Field Guns (105mm), a transport aircraft, more than 10 helicopters and facilities to repair the machinery. Indian civilian aid to Afghanistan totals more than $2 billion (Rs1.25 lakh crore).