Gates: India, Pakistan Have Stake in Afghan Success
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
NEW DELHI, Jan. 20, 2010 Both India and Pakistan have a big stake in what happens in Afghanistan, and are playing significant roles to support the effort there, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today.
Still, it’s critical that both countries maintain full transparency to allay each other’s suspicions, Gates told reporters following a meeting here with Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony. Gates appeared to discount the notion that India contribute troops to serve in Afghanistan.
“The kind of support – and extraordinary support – that India is providing in Afghanistan now is really ideal,” Gates said. “It is significant support,” about $1.3 billion for power, medicine, agriculture and education projects.
India is willing to do more, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna told Gates during meetings yesterday, a senior defense official who attended the sessions told reporters on background.
The offer, however, came with a caveat in light of sensitivities regarding neighboring Pakistan.
India will offer more assistance, but only “if ISAF, [the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan] and the United States think it would be helpful,” the official said Indian leaders told Gates.
“Let’s be honest with one another,” Gates told reporters today. “There are real suspicions in both India and Pakistan about what the other is doing in Afghanistan. And so I think each country focusing its efforts on development, on humanitarian assistant, perhaps in some limited areas of training – but with full transparency for each other in what they are doing – will allay these suspicions and frankly, create opportunities to provide bigger help for the Afghan government.”
Gates said it’s “important to recognize the magnitude of the threat the entire region faces” with al Qaida and its various splinter groups that form a terror “syndicate.”
Their operations are intended to destabilize, not just Afghanistan or Pakistan, but the entire region, he said.
“A victory for one is a victory for all,” he said.
Facing up to this “requires a high level of cooperation among us all,” Gates said.
While visiting Washington in November, Singh joined President Barack Obama in signing a memo of understanding committing to closer counterterrorism cooperation.
Gates’ talks here focused on bolstering India’s role in promoting security in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the entire South Asia region, while deepening counterterrorism cooperation and expanding an already-robust military-to-military relationship.
“India can be an anchor for regional and global security,” he said.
During today’s news conference, Gates called his visit here another step toward expanding the two countries’ defense relationship within the framework of a broad strategic partnership.
Gates said he has been struck by how much the U.S.-India relationship has grown, and the many opportunities to continue to build on that foundation.
During Gates’ sessions here, he emphasized that the United States’ commitment to India and the entire region is long-term.
“We intend to be a productive part of regional security development and economic develop and political development in the future,” a senior official said Gates told the Indian leaders. “We intend to be involved in the region for a very long time.”
The message “resonated very well” with Indian leaders, he said.