India has categorically ruled out any possibility of the country sending its troops to war-torn Afghanistan. Addressing a press conference after her meeting with US Defence Secretary James Mattis, Nirmala Sitharaman cleared the air on previous speculative reports that India was thinking of deploying troops in Afghanistan after US President Donald Trump called for greater Indian involvement in Afghanistan.
“There shall not be any boots on the ground from India,” said Sitharaman while addressing a joint press conference with Mattis after delegation-level talks. She, however, reiterated that India will continue providing development and medical assistance to Kabul.
According to a report by PTI, Both the sides discussed a range of issues including terrorism emanating from Pakistan. The two leaders held comprehensive talks covering the entire gamut of the bilateral defence partnership. “The situation in our neighbourhood and the growing menace of cross-border terrorism were discussed in depth. There is growing convergence in the approaches of both our countries on this issue,” Sitharaman said.
She said both sides recognise the importance of holding those who use terrorism as an instrument of state policy to account and to dismantle the infrastructure that supports terrorism. Sitharaman also said that Mattis has assured her that he will raise with Pakistan the issue of terrorism emanating from there.
On his part, Mattis said there can be “no tolerance to terrorism safe havens”. He also welcomed India’s contribution in war-torn Afghanistan. “There can be no tolerance of terrorist safe heavens. As global leaders, India and the US resolve to work together to etadicate this scourge,” Secretary Mattis said in his statement.
Contending that defence partnership is one of the “key strategic pillars” between India and US, the two sides also focused on sharing cutting-edge technologies and platforms and exploring additional specialised military drills between the two countries.
“In this context, we agreed that the full implementation of the understanding reached following the announcement by the US last year recognising India as a Major Defence Partner will provide further energy and momentum to our collaboration on defence technology and manufacturing,” Sitharaman said.
Mattis said India and the US are two “strategic partners” and their defence cooperation has steadily expanded in recent years underpinned by a strategic convergence between the two countries based on common objectives and goals in the region.
“This cooperation will benefit both economies by reducing trust issues between our two democracies,” he said but did not elaborate on the nature of the issues.
The armies of the two countries are currently participating in the joint military drill Yudh Abyas 2017 and the navies recently concluded the 2017 edition of Malabar, a trilateral exercise between India, the US and Japan.
Secretary Jim Mattis arrived in New Delhi last night on a maiden three-day visit. He is first Cabinet member of the Trump Administration to visit New Delhi after the January 20 inauguration in Washington. India currently provides USD three billion in aid to Afghanistan and also provides training to its military and other assistance.
Later in the day, Mattis met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and briefed him on the progress in advancing bilateral agenda and implementing decisions taken during his last visit to the United States.