Army chief general M M Naravane meets Afghan ambassador Farid Mamundzay

NEW DELHI: India is likely to step-up military training and assistance to Afghanistan, even as US troops are set to withdraw from the war-ravaged country later this year.

Sources said steps to enhance bilateral defence cooperation were discussed in a meeting between Army chief general M M Naravane and Afghan ambassador Farid Mamundzay on Tuesday.

“The Afghan National Defence & Security Forces (ANDSF) have developed great capacity and strength over the past 20 years. ANDSF still requires timely support to further build professional, capable and self-sustaining security forces. Thank you India and Gen Naravane for supporting ANDSF,” said Mamundzay, in a tweet on Wednesday.

India has concerns that countries like Pakistan and China will seek to exploit the vacuum after the US forces exit Afghanistan in the May-September timeframe. India, on its part, supports a national peace and reconciliation process in the country that is “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled”.

India has over the years supplied military hardware, including four Mi-25 armed helicopters, to Afghanistan as well as trained thousands of its military personnel in counter-terrorism operations, military field-craft, intelligence-gathering and information technology, among other fields.

Chief of defence staff General Bipin Rawat had last week stressed the international community must ensure the withdrawal of the US and NATO forces from Afghanistan does not “create space for other disruptors to step in”.

Though he did not name Pakistan or China in this context, the CDS said there were some countries “looking at the opportunity” to step into the vacuum. “Afghanistan is a nation rich in resources. There are some nations who tend to exploit such resources for their own benefit without the benefit going to the community or the nation concerned. This should be prevented…Afghanistan should be for the Afghans,” he had added.