No Indian boots on the ground in Afghanistan, says defence minister

Published September 26, 2017
Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman speaks as US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis looks on as they issue a joint press statement after a meeting in New Delhi. —AFP
Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman speaks as US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis looks on as they issue a joint press statement after a meeting in New Delhi. —AFP

India will not deploy troops in Afghanistan, its defence minister said on Tuesday but promised to boost support for a new United States (US) strategy in the war-torn country.

After talks with US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, Nirmala Sitharaman said India was prepared to increase training for Afghan personnel and develop infrastructures such as schools and hospitals.

“India's contribution has been on these counts and we shall expand if necessary,” she told a news conference with Mattis.

“However, as we have made it very clear, there should not be boots from India on the ground.”

Mattis' trip to India is the first by any member of President Donald Trump's cabinet. It comes just after Trump unveiled a new Afghanistan strategy and urged New Delhi to help.

“We applaud India's invaluable contributions to Afghanistan and welcome further efforts to promote Afghanistan's democracy, stability and security,” Mattis said.

India has long vied with arch-rival Pakistan for influence in Afghanistan by building dams, roads and a new parliament in the troubled country. Last year it offered some $1 billion in aid.

It has also trained more than 4,000 Afghan National Army officers and provided helicopters to the Afghan Air Force.

Unveiling his Afghanistan policy last month, Trump angered Pakistan by saying it offered safe haven to “agents of chaos”.

“There can be no tolerance of terrorist safe havens,” Mattis said.

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