India says no troop deployment in Afghanistan

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and US Defence Secretary James Mattis
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and US Defence Secretary James Mattis

New Delhi : India on Tuesday made it clear to the US that it won’t deploy troops in war-torn Afghanistan even as New Delhi and Washington pledged to eradicate the “scourge” of terrorism and to hold to account those who use it as an instrument of state policy, an apparent reference to Pakistan.

“There shall not be boots from India on the ground (in Afghanistan),” Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said at a joint media conference after talks with visiting US Defence Secretary James Mattis.

She was replying to a question about India’s contribution in Afghanistan and whether it would deploy its troops there.

Mattis is the first high ranking official of the Trump administration to visit India amidst expectation from the US that India could change its stand on a possible military presence in Afghanistan.

US President Donald Trump, while unveiling his new policy on Afghanistan last month, asked India to help more with the troubled country, battling decades of Islamist insurgency.

Sitharaman said India’s contribution to Afghanistan had been there for a very long time in development activities like building dams, schools, hospitals, roads and any institution which the country may require.

“We are also at the moment training their officials in good governance… India’s contribution has been there and we shall expand if necessary,” she said.

“We also exchanged views on regional and international issues of mutual interest. The situation in our neighbourhood and the growing menace of cross-border terrorism were discussed in depth. There is growing convergence in the approaches of both our countries on this issue. We both recognise the importance of holding those who use terrorism as an instrument of state policy to account and to dismantle the infrastructure that supports terrorism,” Sitharaman said.

She said India welcomed Trump’s new Afghan strategy and added she had “useful discussions” with Mattis on “how we can strengthen our cooperation bilaterally as well as with the government of Afghanistan in pursuit of our common objective of a peaceful, democratic, stable and prosperous Afghanistan”.

Mattis lauded India’s efforts in Afghanistan.

“In particular, we applaud India’s invaluable contributions to Afghanistan and welcome further efforts to promote Afghanistan’s democracy, stability and security. We seek to expand our cooperation in building partnership across the region.”

He said the two countries recognized the threat global terrorism posed to people throughout the world. “There can be no tolerance of terrorist safe havens. As global leaders, India and the US resolve to work together to eradicate this scourge.”

The Defence Secretary said both India and the US had suffered losses due to terrorism and “one aspect of this is universally shared by all responsible nations that there shall be no safe havens for terror”.

He did not name Pakistan but Sitharaman minced no words in saying that terror attacks in Mumbai or in New York originated from Pakistan.

“The very same forces which did find safe haven in Pakistan were the forces that hit New York as well as Mumbai,” she said.

She urged the US Defence Secretary to “speak out and raise this issue” on his next visit to Pakistan.

Replying to a question, Mattis appreciated India’s efforts for increasing pressure on North Korea over nuclear activities.

India and the US also discussed maritime security in the Indian Ocean and Indo-Pacific region where China has become increasingly aggressive in the South China Sea.


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