India’s ambassador to Afghanistan has rejected media reports that his government is heading for a strategic shift in relations with Kabul.
Ambassador Amar Sinha says New Delhi is not revising its strategic partnership with Kabul and its foreign minister is not skipping a regional summit in Kabul this week to express New Delhi’s displeasure over the Afghan unity government’s outreach to its regional archrival, Pakistan.
“Strategic partnerships are built on much more solid foundations, and that can’t be undone because of one meeting not happening at a senior [leadership] level,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan. “During the past 18 months, we have had seven summit-level meetings [between our leaders].”
Quoting unnamed senior diplomatic sources, a report in India’s The Hindu daily said that Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is skipping the Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA) in Kabul on September 3 and 4 because the country is “stung by Afghanistan’s security and strategic shift toward Pakistan in the past year.
Sinha, however, said Swaraj has to miss the meeting because of previous engagements. But India will be represented by Sujata Mehta, a deputy foreign minister responsible for economic relations and international development assistance.
He says Swaraj will meet her Afghan counterpart, Salahuddin Rabbani, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session later this month.
India has led Afghanistan’s neighbors in helping its reconstruction by donating more than $2.3 billion in assistance to Afghanistan since 2001. In 2011, Kabul and New Delhi signed a strategic partnership agreement cementing their bilateral relations and cooperation.
India recently completed a major hydroelectric dam in western Afghanistan and is constructing the new Afghan Parliament building. In addition, thousands of Afghans are receiving their educations in India, and the country remains a major destination of Afghan medical tourists.
“Our entire effort has been driven by the demands made by the Afghan government,” Sinha said. “Wherever they have felt that they need our assistance, we have come forward and helped them.” (Gandhara)