Afghan President Hamid Karzai (right) signed a strategic partnership with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (left) on a visit Tuesday that is expected to elevate New Delhi’s role in Afghan security amid strained Afghan-Pakistan relations.
AFP - Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed a partnership deal with India on Tuesday in a move bound to raise suspicion in Pakistan at a time of apparently shifting alliances in unstable South Asia.
Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, which have long been fragile, have soured over accusations that Islamabad has been covertly funding militant groups carrying out attacks in the neighbouring country.
Karzai, speaking at a press conference with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi, stressed again that "terrorism and radicalism" were being used "as an instrument of policy against our citizens".
It appeared to be a veiled reference to Pakistan.
The "strategic partnership" sealed with India -- the first such pact between Afghanistan and another country -- deepens already friendly ties and aims to boost trade, security and cultural links between the countries.
Singh said the deal "creates an institutional framework for our future cooperation."
He added: "India will stand by the people of Afghanistan as they prepare to assume the responsibility for their governance and security after the withdrawal of international forces in 2014."
But Indian involvement in Afghanistan is extremely sensitive because of the delicate and often deadly power games in South Asia, with Pakistan vehemently opposed to its arch-foe meddling in what it considers its backyard.
New Delhi, fearful of the return of an Islamist regime in Kabul, has ploughed about $2.0 billion dollars of aid into the country to gain influence, helping fund highways and the new national parliament.
Analysts in India had predicted that Karzai, angry at Pakistan and wary of a drawdown of US troops by 2014, would look to elevate India's role in stabilising his war-torn country.
Some expressed concern, however, that a greater role for India could lead to a more intense and dangerous "proxy war" between it and nuclear-armed Pakistan on Afghan territory, with unpredictable consequences.
"Delhi and Kabul are realistic enough to know that there can be no lasting peace in Afghanistan without a measure of Pakistan's support," C. Raja Mohan, from the Centre For Policy Research in New Delhi, wrote on Tuesday.
The Afghan president's trip, his second to India this year, comes after the assassination last month of former president and peace envoy Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was killed by a Pakistani citizen according to Karzai's office.
The deputy head of Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security (NDS) intelligence agency, Mohammad Yasin Zia, on Tuesday accused Pakistan of refusing to cooperate with investigations into the killing in Kabul.
Indian political analyst Subhash Agrawal, head of India Focus, a private think-tank, said the Singh-Karzai talks were "very significant in light of Afghanistan accusing Pakistan of being involved in the killing of Rabbani".
"This visit creates more of a natural window for India to have a sustainable role in Afghanistan post-2014," Agrawal told AFP.
The changing Afghan-Indian dynamic also comes amid a sharp deterioration in ties between Pakistan and the US.
Washington has accused Islamabad of covertly funding militant groups in Afghanistan, while the killing of Osama bin Laden by US troops on Pakistani territory in May also hit relations.
New Delhi has also repeatedly accused Pakistan of links to groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Haqqani network, which is accused of carrying out attacks in Afghanistan on Indian targets, including New Delhi's embassy in Kabul.
Date created : 2011-10-04