India sees it as commitment to fight terrorism

NEW DELHI: Indian officials welcomed US President Barack Obama’s brief visit to Afghanistan late yesterday as indicative of his administration’s commitment to remain engaged against terrorism and for stability in that war-ravaged country. According to diplomatic sources, the visit was to get a “first hand look at the ground situation” after Obama significantly raised US troop strength to fight militants there earlier this year. His comments to US troops stationed there “did not show any urge to cut and run,” the sources said.

The Indian government has been wary of whether the United States would stay the course with its ‘Af-Pak’ policy, and has repeatedly urged the US and western powers to ensure a long term commitment for a “stable and democratic” Afghanistan to ensure that “obscurantist forces” like the Taliban do not regain political power there.

As one of the key players

in Afghanistan, with development assistance of over

$1.3 billion spent to help

rehabilitate that country, India will “do everything it can”

to ensure that Afghanistan “is not handed on a platter” to

the Taliban and their “mentors” in Pakistan.

India’s growing influence and popularity in Afghanistan has been bitterly opposed by Islamabad which seeks to establish a proxy Taliban-type regime at Kabul. Pakistan fears that India’s ‘soft power’ among the Afghans will leave Pakistan encircled by hostile neighbours. While it has aggressively lobbied diplomatically to remove India’s presence across its western borders, it has also intensified terrorist intimidation in physical attacks against Indian targets.

Obama’s strong statements during the visit go a long way

in alleviating Indian concerns, sources said. “If this region slides backwards, if the

Taliban retakes this country and Al-Qaeda can operate

with impunity, then more American lives will be at stake. The Afghan people will lose their chance at progress

and prosperity. And the world will be significantly less secure,” Obama stated.

A tough talking President Obama, on his first visit to Afghanistan as President, vowed to deny a safe haven

to the Al-Qaeda and to reverse the “Taliban’s momentum” in Afghanistan. In a clear message to Islamabad, he also vowed to tackle terrorist forces seeking haven across the Durand Line in Pakistan.

Obama, whose administration has escalated the war in Afghanistan, has approved the deployment of 30,000 additional American troops there to fight the Taliban. During his five hour long visit, Obama also reiterated his resolve to strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan’s own forces and government, to enable them to gradually take charge and gain popular confidence.

According to Obama, the

terrorists are on the run because of military action against them. “We’ve seen violent extremists pushed out of their sanctuaries. We’ve struck major blows against al-Qaeda leadership as well as the Taliban’s. They are hunkered down. They’re worried about their own safety,” he said.

The Al-Qaeda and their

extremist allies, including

the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), are a threat not only to the people of Afghanistan and America

he said, but also a threat to people in the region and across the world.