Kabul urged to consider regional implications of arms deal

Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani. — Photo by AFP/File
Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani. — Photo by AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office has urged Afghanistan to be mindful of the regional security situation while pursuing an arms purchase deal with India.

“As a sovereign country Afghanistan can pursue its own policies, but we hope that it would mind the overall peace and security situation,” Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jillani said at a media briefing on Friday.

He was responding to reports that Afghan President Hamid Karzai, during a visit to India earlier this week, had asked the Indian leadership to provide arms to Afghan army.

Mr Karzai’s wish list is not yet known but, according to media reports, he has sought 105mm artillery, medium-lift aircraft, bridge-laying equipment and trucks.

Kabul made the request under its strategic partnership agreement with New Delhi, which provides for training of troops and supply of military hardware. The agreement was signed by the two countries in 2011.

India has already been providing training and small arms to Afghan troops, but has rarely publicly acknowledged it because of regional sensitivities.

It was expected that the Afghan demand would cause anxiety in Islamabad, which has always remained opposed to Indian engagement with Afghan security forces because of the history of its tense relationship with New Delhi.

The demand for weapons was made during the current low in cyclic Pak-Afghan ties. Besides, Kabul has been reluctant to sign a similar agreement with Islamabad despite its keenness for such an arrangement and Mr Karzai’s offer in this regard at a meeting in New York last year.

INDIA-CHINA TIES: The foreign secretary appeared unconcerned about an improvement in relations between China and India.

Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang paid a three day visit to India before coming to Pakistan this week. In India Premier Li called for putting behind the Ladakh border dispute and moving ahead with bilateral ties. India and China want to increase the volume of bilateral trade to $100 billion by 2015 from the current $65bn.

“We feel improvement in India-China relations would contribute to peace and security in the region,” Mr Jillani said. He did not see any comparison between Pak-China relationship and the developing India-China ties.

“The contours of Pak-China relations are well known and have been articulated by Chinese leadership a number of times,” he said.

Landing in Islamabad from India, Premier Li had said that he had come to reaffirm his country’s commitment to strategic partnership with Pakistan and that the ties would intensify no matter how the international situation evolves.

Asked if the incoming PML-N government could review Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project and the award of operational control of Gwadar port to China, Mr Jillani said he saw no major changes in foreign policy with the change in government and that international agreements signed by the previous government would remain intact.

About the gas pipeline project against which Saudis are expected to put pressure on the new government, he said Pakistan had already made a policy decision that it would pursue all options to meet its energy requirements.

“We have an acute energy shortage and energy is going to be a priority issue with the new government,” he said.

Cooperation with China in energy sector, particularly civilian nuclear energy, was ongoing and no new projects were discussed during Prime Minister Li’s visit, he said.

A meeting of the Pak-China Joint Energy Working Group has been convened to take stock of energy shortages and devise a strategy to meet the deficit.

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