Trump may ask India to send troops to Afghanistan

Nayanima Basu New Delhi | Updated on January 12, 2018 Published on June 25, 2017

Trump time: Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives at Andrews Air Force Base in Washington DC on Sunday   -  PTI

The US President is set to hold a series of meetings with Prime Minister Modi today

India may finally face the music on Afghanistan as Prime Minister Narendra Modi sits face to face with US President Donald Trump at the White House on Monday.

“The US is keen to see India playing a greater role in its commitment towards counter-terrorism and as a result it may be asked to play a more meaningful role in stabilising Afghanistan by sending its men to fight the elements of terrorism there,” a top official told BusinessLine requesting anonymity.

By throwing the ‘Mother of All Bombs’ in eastern Afghanistan within just five months into the Presidency, Trump has made it clear that the ‘War on Terror’, which was started by his Republican predecessor George W. Bush as a response to the 2001 twin-tower attacks, has not yet ended.

The Trump administration recently made an announcement that it will reverse the policy of the previous Obama government of withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan. It is, in fact, considering increasing the number of troops in Afghanistan by 3,000-5,000, which the Taliban has said may destabilise the war-torn country once again.

The possibility of a troop surge in Kabul was one of main discussion points during the NATO summit, which took place in Brussels in May. According to the US, such a move will pressurise the Taliban to begin negotiations for the peace talks.

At present, NATO has over 13,000 troops in Afghanistan, including 7,000 from US that are engaged in training Afghan armed forces. During the NATO Summit, President Trump had urged all the members to step up their military presence in Afghanistan. “Trump may tell India to put the boots on the ground now in Afghanistan. With India’s usual complaints of cross-border terrorism, US may like to see India contributing more militarily. The rise of Taliban in Afghanistan in today’s world is more of a concern for India than the US,” said Nandan Unnikrishnan, Vice-President, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), a Delhi-based foreign policy think-tank.

Rising terrorism

During the ‘Heart of Asia’ Summit in December last year, India and Afghanistan had agreed that terrorism rising from Pakistan was the single biggest threat to the peace and stability in the region.

Modi had then said that “silence and inaction” will encourage the terrorists to carry out terror activities even as he vowed to do more. India has been actively engaged in training Afghan National Security Force ever since it signed the strategic partnership agreement in 2011 providing financial and technical assistance to Afghanistan.

However, the Modi government has gone a step further and supplied Kabuleight MI 25 attack helicopters. The recent terror attacks in Afghanistan have also become a major cause of concern for India.

“India is already a major political player and provider of financial and technical assistance to Kabul. But beyond the training of Afghan officers, it may now have to consider ways to increase military support,” said a report by Dhruva Jaishankar, Fellow in Foreign Policy programme at Brookings India.

Defence items and H-1B visas

The Trump administration will also make sure that the visit translates into India procuring more and more defence items from US. India, on the other hand, will raise the issue of H-1B visas and seek greater access to the American market for its goods.

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Published on June 25, 2017
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