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As Afghanistan readies for large transitions, India must be generous and agile in its response
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai's visit to India, his second in six months, came at a critical time for the region. With the clock ticking in Kabul, Afghanistan is bracing for a series of transitions, beginning in 2014 — the withdrawal of US troops and transfer of the security burden to Afghan forces of doubtful capability, the likely end of Karzai's presidency once his second term is over, and the uncertain prospects of a political reconciliation between the Afghan state and the Taliban. Undoubtedly, Karzai came with hopes of eliciting greater support and a deeper commitment from Delhi.
Primarily, Karzai's expectations were for an increase in defence assistance from India, including "lethal and non-lethal" weapons. On Wednesday, he disclosed that he had indeed presented Kabul's "wishlist" to Delhi, while emphasising Afghanistan's need for as much defence equipment and training as it can get. There is no plan for stationing Indian troops on the ground. But Afghanistan will welcome Indian instructors once the "Sandhurst-type" military academy is established. India already provides limited military assistance to Afghanistan, mainly in the form of training Afghan security personnel, under the bilateral strategic partnership agreement of 2011. This is besides India's investment of $2 billion in Afghan reconstruction — building infrastructure, such as roads, highways, hospitals and electricity projects — as well as assistance in rebuilding the country's police, judiciary and diplomatic services.