Afghan Army Chief to visit India next week, focuses on strengthening defence cooperation

New Delhi: Afghan Army Chief Gen Wali Mohammad Ahmadzai is expected to pay a three-day crucial visit to India from July 27 to explore boosting bilateral military ties in the face of the Taliban making sweeping offensive across Afghanistan following the withdrawal of foreign forces, people familiar with the development said on Tuesday.

Gen Ahmadzai is scheduled to hold wide-ranging talks with the top Indian military brass including his counterpart Gen MM Naravane and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, they said.

“The Afghan Army Chief is scheduled to arrive in India on July 27 for a three-day visit. He is scheduled to return in the first half of July 30. Strengthening defence cooperation will be the focus of the visit,” said one of the persons.

Afghanistan has been reaching out to its key allies in seeking support to strengthen its security forces in the backdrop of the Taliban resorting to widespread violence to expand its influence across the country after the US began withdrawing troops from May 1.

In the last few years, India has provided at least five military helicopters to the war-ravaged country which has been trying to strengthen its air power.

Afghanistan has also been seeking India’s assistance in making functional Soviet-era helicopters and transport aircraft that were not in flying condition.

The country has been struggling to get spare parts for aircraft and helicopters due to Western sanctions against Moscow.

Last month, President Ashraf Ghani appointed Gen Wali Mohammad Ahmadzai as the new chief of army staff, replacing Gen Yasin Zia.

It is learnt that Gen Ahmadzai is likely to seek a supply of military hardware from India to enhance the combat capability of his forces.

The Afghan Army chief’s visit to India also comes in the midst of increasing strain in Kabul’s ties with Islamabad following the brief kidnapping of the daughter of Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan.

Following the incident, the Afghanistan foreign ministry said it was recalling the ambassador and other senior diplomats until all security threats are removed.

In an address at a connectivity conference in Tashkent on Friday, President Ghani hit out at Pakistan for the influx of foreign terrorists into Afghanistan and failing to do enough to influence the Taliban to seriously engage in the peace talks.

“Intelligence estimates indicate the influx of over 10,000 jihadi fighters (into Afghanistan) from Pakistan and other places in the last month,” Ghani said at the conference in the presence of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and several other leaders.

India has been a major stakeholder in the peace and stability of Afghanistan. It has already invested nearly USD 3 billion in aid and reconstruction activities in the country. India has also been supporting a national peace and reconciliation process which is Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled.


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