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Afghan President Seeks Indian Military Aid Amid Pakistan Row

Afghan President Hamid Karzai at a charitable housing project event in Kabul on May 16
President Hamid Karzai is due to open a trip to India during which he is expected to seek more Indian assistance for Afghanistan’s armed forces.

The three-day trip comes amid tensions between Afghanistan and its neighbor Pakistan, which has had hostile relations with India for decades.

Afghanistan and Pakistan have accused each other of firing across their mutual border, and Afghanistan said an Afghan police officer was killed in a skirmish earlier this month.

Both sides also accuse each other of sheltering militants who launch cross-border attacks.

Pakistan's government suspects India of trying to weaken Pakistan by surrounding it with hostile forces, including in Afghanistan, and for years has sought to prevent the development of a strong India-Afghan alliance.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since they were divided into two countries when they achieved independence from Britain in 1947.

Afghan presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi said Karzai’s delegation intended to ask India to help Afghanistan address its military needs and shortages.

Details were not immediately available on what kind of weapons and assistance India is prepared to provide Afghanistan.

Karzai’s trip comes amid intensifying jockeying for influence in Afghanistan as foreign combat troops prepare to withdraw from the country by the end of 2014.

It also follows a new pledge from Nawaz Sharif, the incoming Pakistani prime minister, to improve Islamabad’s relations with India.

The Afghan spokesman said Karzai planned to discuss in New Delhi the rise in tensions on the Durand Line, colonial-era border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Ahead of Karzai’s talks, the "Times of India" newspaper reported that Afghanistan's ambassador to India said the country needs India's help with "equipment and weapons to fight."

The Press Trust of India later quoted a spokesman for the Indian Foreign Ministry as saying New Delhi is ready to fulfill such requests.

Afghanistan and India signed a strategic partnership agreement in 2011 that has included Indian military training of Afghan security forces.

Economic issues are also expected during the Afghan-Indian discussions. Reports say India has more than $2 billion invested in Afghan infrastructure projects.

An Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Syed Akbaruddin, acknowledged that "political and security issues" continue to hamper efforts to develop the Afghan economy.

Afghanistan has repeatedly suggested that Pakistan has hindered efforts toward peace talks involving the Afghan Taliban and other factions.

Many Afghan Taliban leaders have found shelter in Pakistan. Pakistan backed the Afghan Taliban before reversing its stand under pressure from Washington during the U.S.-led intervention which toppled the Taliban regime in late 2001.

Karzai, who earned a university degree in India, most recently visited New Delhi in November 2012.

Based on reports from Reuters and AP
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