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US welcomes India's development efforts in Afghanistan

Apr 20, 2010

Despite Pakistan pushing US to put pressure on India to decrease its presence in Afghanistan, the US has shown support for Indian development efforts in Afghanistan. US ambassador to India Timothy J. Roemer will travel to Afghanistan to show gratitude for Indian efforts.

New Delhi: The US may not be keen on India playing a role in training the Afghan Army or the Afghan police, but there is support in Washington for Indian developmental efforts in Afghanistan.

In the backdrop of US President Barack Obama’s recent stamp of approval for Indian efforts in Afghanistan, US ambassador to India Timothy J. Roemer will travel to Afghanistan in what can best be described as a show of support for India in Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President Barack Obama had discussed Afghanistan in their bilateral meeting in Washington. Referring to that meeting, Roemer he was keen to travel to Kabul to show “gratitude” for Indian efforts in Afghanistan.

"The message from the US also comes at a time when India is at a crossroads on its Afghan policy"

“I will be traveling in the ensuing weeks in this region... it will involve a trip to Kabul. ...the President’s direction is to work and to show our gratitude to the Indian contribution of $1.3 billion in economic, education and infrastructure areas. It’s extremely important to us,’’ he added.

Though this may come as a surprise to New Delhi, this ringing endorsement for India in Afghanistan is a strong message to Islamabad which has been lobbying Washington to put pressure on New Delhi to decrease its presence in Afghanistan. But the US show of support is expected to blunt the Pakistani efforts.

The message from the US also comes at a time when India is at a crossroads on its Afghan policy. Washington has publicised its plans and aims of scaling down presence starting next year. With Indian installations and nationals becoming a target of terror elements in Afghanistan, India has been pushed to reassess its options in a fast changing matrix.

Roemer further said that the US is keen to partner India in the region. “We want to look for more opportunities to partner for peace in the region,” he said. However, he did not go into any details.

Foreign secretary Nirupama Rao had said in a briefing that President Obama in his meeting with Singh was very appreciative of India's contribution to the reconstruction of Afghanistan. At the same time Obama had also given an assurance to India that the US would monitor military aid given Pakistan. On the issue, Roemer said, “This is an issue we take very seriously.”

He added: “This is something Congress will take seriously and they will look at it.’’

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