President Ghani will be arriving in India on Wednesday to hold “close consultations” with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during which the Afghan president could ask for increased military assistance from New Delhi.
The Afghan president’s programme in New Delhi includes a lunch by Modi, an address to Indian businessmen and a speech to the government-run New Delhi-based think tank, the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.
India has always considered Afghanistan as part of its extended neighbourhood and has sought friendly ties with Kabul, much to the discomfort of regional rival Pakistan. New Delhi has been one of the biggest donors to Afghanistan, pledging $2 billion in support for reconstruction programmes in Afghanistan.
Announcing Ghani’s visit, the Indian foreign ministry in a statement over the weekend said the discussions between Ghani and Modi will “provide an opportunity to continue the close and frequent consultations between the two friendly neighbours, including at the highest level.”
“Such interaction is the hallmark of their strategic partnership and has guided the strengthening of all-round cooperation between the two countries,” the statement added.
Afghanistan has been demanding increased defence supplies, including lethal weapons from India, which for the first time gave four Mi-25 attack helicopters to the war-torn country last year. At least two people familiar with the developments said India could respond positively to Afghanistan’s demand and announce new military assistance. This is a break from the past when India shied away from supplying lethal weapons to Afghanistan mainly due to pressure from the US which was wary of upsetting Pakistan. The Islamabad government views India’s involvement with Afghanistan to its detriment.
High up on Ghani’s wish list are utility and attack helicopters, artillery, ammunition and spares in addition to help in reviving some of the Soviet era factories in Afghanistan, according to a third person familiar with the development, who did not want to be named.
Both India and Pakistan are seeking a friendly government in Kabul. India wants to cultivate close ties with Afghanistan to ensure forces inimical to its interests do not get a foothold there. Pakistan, on the other hand, wants a friendly government in Kabul on which it can fall back in case of hostilities with India.