India has driven back Kabul invitation to regain Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) in Kabul.
The Hindu, an Indian newspaper writes, stung by Afghanistan’s security and strategic shift towards Pakistan in the past year, India has rebuffed another invitation from Kabul to revive the Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) signed in 2011 to hold a meeting of the Strategic Partnership Council (SPC).
Afghan experts say India has realized that pro-Pakistani elements have been influenced inside the Afghan government.
“Due to the lack of a specific foreign policy, India has realized that Pakistan has influenced the Afghan government and has appointed some figures,” Jawed Kohistani an Afghan military expert said.
Diplomatic sources at the highest level have confirmed to The Hindu newspaper that India has conveyed its inability to hold the meeting that would be chaired by Foreign Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Afghan counterpart Salahuddin Rabbani “due to prior commitments.”
New Delhi has also conveyed that Indian Foreign Affairs Minister will not attend the upcoming Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA) in Kabul on September 3 and 4, and instead Secretary, Multilateral and Economic Relations, will represent India at the conference.
“The meeting will not be held due to the programs determined by India earlier, and it doesn’t have any connection with Kabul – Islamabad relations, on the other hand at the SPA meeting the Indian foreign minister will not attend and another official will attend,” Shekib Mustaghni Afghanistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson said.
While India’s decision to not attend the RECCA conference, which is essentially a development and donor conference, may not affect relations given India’s $2.3-billion strong commitment to Afghanistan, Afghan officials said the delay in the SPC meeting is more significant. India and Afghanistan have held only one meeting of the SPC (in 2012) since former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and former India Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed the historic agreement in 2011.
India was the first country Afghanistan chose to sign a strategic partnership agreement with, despite the U.S. and Pakistan keen on doing so. Since then, however, India has significantly withdrawn from its strategic promises to Afghanistan for a number of reasons.
Next, said officials, after President Ashraf Ghani took charge in 2014, he made a decisive shift towards mending fences with the Pakistan Army, including visits to the Pakistan General Headquarters and inviting the Army and intelligence chiefs to Kabul, and signing an MoU between intelligence agencies NDS and ISI, even as his government joined talks with the Taliban hosted by Pakistan.
“After Karzai, we have never trusted Ashraf Ghani’s motivations given the overtures he made to the Pakistan Army,” said the former Ambassador to Kabul Rakesh Sood, adding, “India has always been hesitant about what it wanted from the SPA anyway. The demand for defence equipment, for example, was something we were never able to deliver on.”
Reported by: Farahnaz Froton