20:02 GMT +321 March 2018
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    India Meets SCO Partners in Moscow to Discuss Afghanistan

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    India has been invited to a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) contact group meeting on Afghanistan for the first time to address the war-ravaged country’s security situation as well as its economic potential; the countries' representatives are gathering in Moscow.

    New Delhi (Sputnik) The meeting comes close on the heels of the US-backed Indo-Afghan trade and investment show in the Indian capital. New Delhi has been playing a pivotal role in Afghanistan's reconstruction efforts and its role in the region as a whole has come to be better-acknowledged after it took a firm stand against China in the Doklam crisis.

    “Foreign policy is as much about perception as it is about reality. During the Doklam standoff, the message was clear that India can take a stand against China while many other powers, in the South China Sea [issue], just gave in to their demands, including the US. India's standing for Bhutan conveyed a very different message and showed that New Delhi stands for its friends. More importantly, it will not let China unilaterally change the reality on the ground. In Afghanistan, India has been a significant stakeholder and everyone, including the US, Russia, and China, knows that, even Pakistan. India has invested a lot in reconstruction efforts and training Afghan officials and in other ways.” Dr. Harsh Pant, distinguished fellow at the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation told Sputnik.

    “What is important, however, is that New Delhi must keep in mind how it could help Afghanistan and its people through the SCO contact group meeting. It is not that all stakeholders in Afghanistan have shared goals, and we must be clear where and with whom our interests converge,” Dr. Pant added.

    India became a member of the China-dominated grouping recently: in June of this year, alongside Pakistan. The SCO contact group on Afghanistan was reportedly revived recently after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intervention, even though the group had existed since 2009.

    “What India has done for Afghanistan in terms of socio-economic projects and the training of civilian and armed forces personnel since 2001 has no parallel. Besides, India has promised to execute another 116 projects across Afghanistan. Very few nations have such a track record,” The Economic Times quoted an official from a SCO member nation as saying.

    The meeting will be attended by all eight members of the SCO, along with Afghanistan. During the Indo-Afghan trade and investment show, India also hosted Russian envoy Zamir Kabulov.

    Since the eviction of the Taliban in 2001, India has created a $2 billion humanitarian aid program that is not only Afghanistan’s fifth largest but also “reputedly the most focused and effective, dollar for dollar,” noted security expert Ajai Shukla in The New York Times.

    Reports of India getting militarily involved in Afghanistan have been doing the rounds in the media in recent weeks. In fact, under a 2011 Strategic Partnership Agreement with Afghanistan, India can provide direct military support — initially as trainers but potentially as combat troops if the need arose. “But India doesn’t need boots on the ground,” Shukla notes.

    India’s development and rebuilding efforts such as Afghanistan’s Parliament, schools, hospitals, buses, the Salma Dam in Herat province, roads and training efforts have generated enormous goodwill for India in the country. All these and the deep cultural ties the two nations share provide India an advantage over other large donors.


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