Night Watch

India-Russia-Afghanistan: India, Russia and Afghanistan quietly have created a triangular arrangement for providing arms aid to Afghanistan after NATO withdraws. None of the countries have made an official announcement. Only a small number of news services, including The Moscow Times and Pakistani newspapers, have published articles about it.

The arrangement was finalized in February when an India team visited Moscow, but it had been under discussion during the past year. It was one of the discussion items when President Karzai visited India last December.

Under the agreement, smaller arms such as light artillery and mortars will be provided by Russia and moved to Afghanistan from the north, while India paid Russia for the equipment. An inventory of Russian-made equipment in Afghanistan has been completed. Afghanistan has presented India with a list of requirements and Russia reportedly has made one or more initial shipments.

An Indian Ministry of External Affairs officer said, "We can't commit troops on the ground; we can't give them the military equipment that they have been asking us for, for all sorts of reasons including the lack of surplus stocks….Involving a third party is the next best option."

Comment: The leaders of the three countries have exercised care to minimize negative reaction from Pakistani leaders. India could meet most of Afghanistan's needs from its own production lines, but does not want Indian-made military equipment and ammunition showing up in Taliban hands, especially Pakistani Taliban hands.

While the initial shipments will involve smaller weapons, future deliveries could include heavier equipment, including artillery, tanks and combat helicopters. President Karzai has requested heavy equipment from the Indians, but thus far they have not agreed to provide it. If or when India does supply heavy military equipment, India could ship equipment by sea to the Iranian port of Chabahar and then deliver it to Afghanistan by using the road India built from Chabahar to the west Afghanistan town of Delaram, which is located on the Afghan Ring Road.

This arrangement puts a different perspective on the aftermath of the NATO withdrawal. President Karzai has cultivated other allies who live in the region and who have helped in the past. Iran, Russia and India cooperated in supporting the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance before 2001. The new agreement involves the same players, but in a more formal and focused arrangement.

Night Watch

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