Currying favor: Karzai in India in search of ally

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and India’s PM Dr Manmohan Singh signed three bilateral agreements late on Tuesday during Karzai’s visit to India. The visit could potentially put a strain on the two countries’ relations with neighboring Pakistan.

Details of a new strategic partnership between India and Afghanistan were documented. Karzai signed a security agreement handing a greater role to India in training Afghan security forces and also sealed two other deals on energy and mining.

"This is a significant visit by the president and India is fully committed to nurturing our friendship and strategic partnership with Afghanistan," Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna told reporters after talks with Karzai.

On Monday night, Karzai said that Pakistan has not lived up to its promises to help end the Taliban-led insurgency, but expressed hopes that the two countries can work together like brothers. The statement follows much harsher claims made earlier by the Afghan leader, accusing Islamabad of a “double-sided game” in fighting against terrorism.

Following the assassination of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani by the Taliban, Karzai said he had given up trying to talk to the group directly and that the key to ending the war is mediation by Pakistan.

Cooperation on fighting the insurgents has been hampered by uneasy relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan. With India being Pakistan’s arch rival, any future Indian-Afghani alliance is likely to worsen the two countries’ ties with Islamabad.

India has long played a developmental role in Afghanistan, as one of its largest aid donors.

Dr. Sreeram Chaulia, Professor and Vice Dean at the Jindal School of International Affairs, told RT that India is now forced by regional circumstances to play a more proactive security role in Afghanistan.

Dr. Chaulia suggests that the Moscow-Tehran-New Delhi axis should play a greater role in fighting the Islamist insurgency and maintaining security in the region.

“India, Iran, even Russia, all these neighboring countries that are affected by the blowout of Afghanistan’s Islamic fundamentalism need to take greater responsibility because they have been free-riding on the US’s contributions,” he says.

Sreeram Chaulia underlines that Tehran is an indispensable power in stabilizing Afghanistan because of its animosity to the Taliban, which backs a Sunni insurgency in the southeast of Iran.

Despite the fact that Iran is America’s arch enemy, there have been cases when the two powers have cooperated on pragmatic issues, such as fighting the Taliban insurgency, Chaulia notes.

“Iran can become a great meeting place for unlikely friends… It is possible to overcome ideological divides,” he claims.