India offers more aid for rebuilding Afghanistan
NEW DELHI (AP) -- India offered on Tuesday to provide more training and reconstruction aid for Afghanistan as most international troops prepare to withdraw next year.
President Pranab Mukherjee told visiting Afghan President Hamid Karzai that India was proud to help, a statement from Mukherjee's office said.
"India is prepared to increase bilateral contribution to institution-building, training and equipment to the extent India can," Mukherjee said. The statement did not say whether it would include military aid.
Karzai spokesman Aimal Faizi said earlier that Afghanistan would ask for Indian help in the strengthening of its security forces ahead of the withdrawal of international forces.
Karzai held talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh later Tuesday. Details were not immediately available.
A 2011 strategic partnership agreement between the two countries includes Indian training of Afghan security forces. Small batches of Afghan soldiers are undergoing training at Indian military schools.
India has invested more than $2 billion in Afghan infrastructure, including highways and hospitals and rural electricity projects. It is also helping the Afghan government rebuild its police forces, judiciary and diplomatic services.
New Delhi is hoping to gain some influence in the country after 2014, when Afghan forces are to become responsible for the entire country's security.
As NATO troops prepare to withdraw, India fears the possibility of the country falling into the hands of a Taliban-led regime, endangering many of India's interests there.
India, Afghanistan and Iran have been discussing how best to utilize the southeastern Iranian port of Chahbahar and develop road and rail links from there to Afghanistan.
For India, the shortest and most economical route for sending supplies to Afghanistan would be by road through Pakistan. But Pakistan, India's bitter rival, has denied New Delhi road access to Kabul, making the route through Iran all the more significant.
Karzai, who earned his college degree in India, has visited New Delhi more than a half dozen times in the past few years.