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‘Trump calling for more Indian involvement in Afghanistan is an opportunity’

‘Trump calling for more Indian involvement in Afghanistan is an opportunity’

Washington: The experts on South Asia matters have dubbed the Donald Trump’s assertion that India should play an even more important role in Afghanistan as an opportunity for New Delhi. They said that it was a signal that Pakistan was no longer a dominant player in the matter.

Trump laid out his South Asia policy on Tuesday, saying a “critical part” of it was to develop US’ strategic ties with India and hit out at Pakistan for supporting terrorist groups.

Bharath Gopalaswamy, director of the South Asia Centre, said the call for a larger Indian role in Afghanistan means the US wants New Delhi’s greater economic involvement in the war-torn country.

Gopalaswamy said the new strategy also “gives India an opportunity to work with the US to determine what kind of Afghanistan it wants to see”.

India is a key security and economic partner of the US, he said. Trump had cited India’s “billions of dollar in trade with US” as one of the reasons why New Delhi should step up its economic and development assistance to Afghanistan.

Gopalaswamy said India was already involved in development projects such as building dams and parliament in Afghanistan.

But, he added, Trump has “challenged” India to take a bigger role in Afghanistan than it currently has. Sadanand Dhume, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, described the new strategy as a welcome step.

“India should welcome being called out as a US partner in Afghanistan. This is a clear signal that Washington will no longer pay much heed to Islamabad’s sensitivities, and Afghanistan is vital to India’s broader security interests too,” he told PTI.

Some were less than optimistic about the success of the new strategy in ending the 16-year war in Afghanistan. Vikram Singh, who played a key role in the AfPak policy during the previous administration of Barack Obama, wondered how the US would implement its new strategy on Pakistan.

“Indians will welcome the tough language on Pakistan, but the fundamental American dependence on Pakistan for basics – like access for supplies – will not change, so neither will US policy,” he said.

Singh is the vice president for National Security and International Policy at Centre for American Progress. “Good to welcome India’s positive role and contributions to Afghanistan but not clear from Trump how he plans to proceed. Not different from Obama. And no actual strategy behind the aspirations,” he said.

Jagdish Sewhani, president of the American India Public Affairs Committee, said Trump’s Afghan strategy vindicates India’s policy of development and peace in that country.

“It (would be) a game changer,” he said. Donald Trump has announced he will prolong the US military intervention in Afghanistan, which he had once described as a “complete waste”.

Trump acknowledged that his “instincts” told him to pull out troops from Afghanistan. “Historically, I like following my instincts,” Trump said. “A hasty withdrawal,” Trump said, would create a “vacuum” for terrorists. PTI