India rebuffs Afghanistan on strategic meet

Stung by Afghanistan’s security and strategic shift towards Pakistan in the past year, India has rebuffed another invitation from Kabul to revive the Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) signed in 2011 to hold a meeting of the Strategic Partnership Council (SPC).

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to attend the inauguration of Afghanistan’s Parliament building in Kabul.

Diplomatic sources at the highest level have confirmed to The Hindu that India has conveyed its inability to hold the meeting that would be chaired by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Afghan counterpart Salahuddin Rabbani “due to prior commitments.”

New Delhi has also conveyed that Ms. Swaraj will not attend the upcoming Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA) in Kabul on September 3 and 4, and instead Sujata Mehta, Secretary, Multilateral and Economic Relations, will represent India at the conference. India’s representation will be in sharp contrast to some of the other regional countries participating at the Foreign Minister-level, while Iran is expected to send its Interior Minister and Pakistan its National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz, RECCA official Asadullah Hamdard confirmed to The Hindu.

While India’s decision to not attend the RECCA conference, which is essentially a development and donor conference, may not affect relations given India’s $2.3-billion strong commitment to Afghanistan, Afghan officials said the delay in the SPC meeting is more significant. India and Afghanistan have held only one meeting of the SPC (in 2012) since former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and former India Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed the historic agreement in 2011.

Trust deficit

“After Karzai, we have never trusted Ashraf Ghani’s motivations given the overtures he made to the Pakistan Army,” said the former Ambassador to Kabul Rakesh Sood, adding, “India has always been hesitant about what it wanted from the SPA anyway. The demand for defence equipment, for example, was something we were never able to deliver on.”

India’s development commitment remains robust, and Mr. Modi’s visit is expected to take place once the Afghan Parliament is completed by the Indian Public Works Department by January 2016.

Source: The Hindu

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Secure haven for a terrorist

In an ideal world where the rule of law mattered and geopolitics did not dominate the conduct of international relations, Pakistan would have cooperated in the capture and extradition of Dawood Ibrahim and the criminal and mass murderer would have faced justice in the country of his origin. Instead, in this real world Pakistan persists with its long-pursued policy of “plausible deniability”, refusing to acknowledge the presence of the underworld “kingpin”, let alone responding to accusations that he has been sheltered by the agencies of the state. While he has been absconding from Indian justice after being identified as a key conspirator in the 1993 Mumbai blasts that killed hundreds of people, it has been widely reported that he lives a secured life of comfort in Karachi, among other places. How Ibrahim can live such a life without protection accorded by Pakistan’s security establishment is not an unfathomable mystery. He was after all playing a leading role in Pakistan’s strategy of trying to “bleed India by a thousand cuts”, that it has seemingly followed fervidly in the 1990s.

Much water has flowed down the Indus since then; today Pakistan suffers festering wounds inflicted by its own strategy of terror. There is some degree of realisation among its civilian establishment that the nexus between the security establishment and the jihadi complex has hurt its fledgling democratic institutions. This led to an assertion of civilian supremacy in the latter half of the decade of the 2000s, and a degree of acceptance by the security establishment of the need to do away with military preponderance. But there has been little reorientation in Pakistan’s overall foreign policy towards India, beyond tokenism and a grudging acceptance of a changed world at large that has little tolerance for terrorists and their sponsors. Despite an Interpol Red Corner notice out for him, and notwithstanding the UN Security Council Resolution 1267 that obligates UN members to help apprehend individuals included in a UN sanctions list against the al-Qaeda where Ibrahim’s name figures, there has hardly been any action taken by Pakistan’s state establishment. Indian governments over the years have patiently built a case for his extradition through dossiers submitted to Pakistan. But these have been of no avail, and unsurprisingly so. After all, the most wanted terrorist of the last decade, Osama Bin Laden, was ensconced in a compound in Abbottabad not far from the Pakistan Military Academy campus. “Plausible deniability” did not work with the U.S., as President Barack Obama ordered an operation to take out Bin Laden, showing little regard for Pakistan’s sovereignty. It is to be hoped that the Pakistan government will revisit the lessons learnt and cooperate on the issue of Ibrahim’s extradition. Among other things, such a step will aid in mending the fraught relations between India and Pakistan.

Source: The Hindu

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