No Indian troops in Afghanistan, says Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman

India ruled out deploying its troops in Afghanistan but will expand its development activities to help stabilize the country.

Published: 26th September 2017 02:15 PM  |   Last Updated: 26th September 2017 07:42 PM   |  A+A-

Union defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman welcomes US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis on Tuesday. (Shekhar Yadav | EPS)

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: India on Tuesday conveyed to visiting US Secretary of Defence James Mattis that no Indian troops will be deployed in Afghanistan and the country will only continue its work on development and medical assistance.

While welcoming President Trump's new US strategy for Afghanistan, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman said, "There shall be no Indian boots on ground. It’s all for development. Our engagement in Afghanistan will continue, we shall expand our engagement,"

Her statement came in backdrop of Trump's new strategy in Afghanistan, which envisaged India's bigger role in the trouble-torn country. In August, the US President had announced the policy with focus on beefing up military presence and pressing India towards helping in "economic assistance and development" of the nation.

US President Donald Trump had said in a speech, "We appreciate India's important contributions to stability in Afghanistan, but India makes billions of dollars in trade with the US, and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development."

Sitharaman said India had contributed to Afghanistan for a very long time in development activities like building dams, schools, hospitals and roads as New Delhi has already extended $ 3 billion aid to Afghanistan and also provides training to its military and other assistance.

"We are also at the moment training their officials in good governance... India's contribution has been there and we shall expand if necessary," she said.

"We applaud India's invaluable contributions to Afghanistan and welcome further efforts to promote Afghanistan's democracy, stability and security," James Mattis said after his talks with Sitharaman in south block, which houses the defence ministry. James Mattis was the the first high-ranking official of the Trump administration to visit India.

Sitharaman said on Tuesday that she also discussed the issue of terror safe havens in Pakistan with Mattis and they both agreed such sanctuaries shouldn't be tolerated. On Pakistan, the minister said both sides recognised the importance of holding those who use terrorism as an instrument of state policy to account for and dismantle the infrastructure that supports terrorism.

"The very same forces which did find safe haven in Pakistan were the forces that hit New York as well as Mumbai,” said Sitharaman, while Mattis replied that " there can be no tolerance of terrorist safe heavens. As global leaders, India and unites states resolve to work together to eradicate this scourge”.

While seeking cooperation on high-end military technology, both leaders also agreed to expand on the progress by encouraging further co-production and co- development efforts.

" I reiterated India's deep interest in enhancing defence manufacturing in India under  Prime Minister'sMake in India initiative," Sitharaman added.

They also discussed on how to refocus and re-energise the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) as mechanism to promote technology sharing as well as co-development and co-production efforts.

“The United States designation of India as a Major Defence Partner reflects the progress made in strengthening our cooperation. My goal is to promote pragmatic progress between US in out defence partnership, delivering defence interoperability aligned with PM Modi and President Trump direction,” Mattis said in his statement.

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