The one-day visit by Afghanistan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs H E Salahuddin Rabbani to Delhi for the second round of the “India Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Council” is significant, as it comes soon after US President Donald Trump’s statement urging India to “help to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development”. Rabbani, who arrived Sunday evening, met Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, where both sides emphasised the need to remain steadfast in the fight against terrorism.
Addressing a joint press conference with Rabbani after strategic partnership council talks, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj spoke of the ‘spiritual and civilization’ connect between the two nations, and said that India proposed 116 ‘high impact’ projects to be jointly implemented in Afghanistan. More importantly, India agreed to extend further assistance for the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces. Lauding the Afghan forces for the fight against terrorism, she announced that India would offer 500 scholarships for the children of martyred Afghan soldiers.
Both sides also agreed to speed up operationalisation of the Chabahar Port in Iran as per a trilateral Agreement signed in May 2016. India hopes to gain access to the resource rich Central Asian markets through this corridor. In his address, while stressing that friendship with India did not mean hostility with other neighbours, Rabbani called out Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, which targeted India, as well as Afghanistan in cahoots with Al-Qaeda, Daesh and the Taliban in Afghanistan. In an obvious reference to Pakistan, he said unlike others, Afghanistan did not seek “security in the insecurity of others”. This visit by Rabbani, who also met Modi before leaving for Kabul late night Monday, is likely to raise flags in GHQ Rawalpindi, which has always considered Afghanistan as part of its strategic backyard.