Afghan President Ghani Warns Modi, Sharif Against “Proxy War” Post-US Departure

The eight SAARC members are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka

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Kathmandu, Nepal – Afghanistan’s new President Ashraf Ghani issued a warning on November 26 at “South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation” (SAARC) leaders meeting in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu that he will not let his country become the battleground for a proxy war.

The departure of NATO combat troops from Afghanistan at the end of the year has raised fears that rivalry between India and Pakistan could escalate. The two have long accused each other of using proxy forces to try to gain influence in Afghanistan.

Ghani told leaders including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan’s Nawaz Sharif, “We will not permit anybody to conduct proxy wars on our soil.”

During his first face-to-face talks with Modi, Ghani accepted an invitation to visit India in 2015. India is the largest regional investor in Afghanistan. “The Prime Minister had bilateral engagements today with the leaders of five other nations -the Bhutan Prime Minister, the Bangladesh Prime Minister, the Afghanistan President, the Maldives President and the Sri Lankan President. Prime Minister Modi has invited Bhutan Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay to visit India, in January in view of ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ event, to which the latter was very keen,” Indian ministry of external affairs official spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin told the media.

“This was the first meeting between Prime Minister Modi and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani, and the Prime Minister extended him an invitation to visit India at an early date. Prime Minister Modi and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had an extensive discussion on issue of security and terrorism,” he added. As expected Modi did not meet with Pakistan Prime Minister Sharif on the sidelines of the summit.

Prime Minister Modi also urged the SAARC nations to fulfill the pledge taken by them to combat terror and trans-national crimes. “As we remember the horror of the terror attack in Mumbai in 2008, we feel the endless pain of lost lives. Let us work together to fulfil the pledge we have taken to combat terrorism and trans-national crimes,” he said in his speech at the SAARC Summit.

Calling the outcome of the summit as “disappointing” Neelam Deo, director at think tank Gateway House, said, “Only the Framework Agreement for Energy Cooperation (electricity) was signed. However, if properly implemented, the agreement could enhance energy trade in South Asia, which is highly dependent on oil imports. There is still hope that the other two agreements may be completed within the next three months, giving Pakistan time to complete its internal processes.”

“Connectivity is vital for SAARC countries to increase economic exchanges and grow to their potential. The key connectivity agreements proposed at the SAARC summit included the Framework Agreement for Energy Cooperation, the Motor Vehicle Agreement for Regulation of Passenger and Cargo Vehicular Traffic, and the Regional Agreement on Railways. The three agreements, if concluded, could have invigorated economic interaction between SAARC countries. However, domestic problems in Pakistan have weakened Nawaz Sharif due to which he could only sign on to one of the three agreements,” Deo noted, adding, “Greater political understanding among SAARC countries is needed to address problems, such as terrorism, which affect the region.”

The eighteenth summit of SAARC was held in Kathmandu, the capital of Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal during November 26-27, 2014. The eight SAARC members are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

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