x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Panetta urges India to take a 'more robust' role in Afghanistan

India has not been a major military player in the war but officials say the United States defence secretary will talk with Indian leaders about possibly helping to train the Afghan army and police.

NEW DELHI // Leon Panetta, the United States defence secretary, is urging India's leaders to play a more robust role in Afghanistan as US tensions with Pakistan, continue to churn.

India has not been a major military player in the war but US officials said Mr Panetta will talk with Indian leaders about possibly helping to train the Afghan army and police.

Such discussions come at a fragile time and risk further roiling US relations with Pakistan. Washington and Islamabad have been deadlocked over ground supply routes into Afghanistan, which were shut down late last year after a US airstrike mistakenly killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers.

Nato reached an agreement with other Central Asia nations that would bypass Pakistan to move military equipment in and out of Afghanistan.

Defence officials travelling with Mr Panetta said the US would like India and Pakistan to work in concert to help stabilise Afghanistan.

Pakistan, however, is likely to view any increased Indian role in Afghanistan with suspicion and worry that it may dilute its influence on the Afghans' future.

Mr Panetta's stop in New Delhi will also gain attention in Islamabad, particularly since in his previous job as CIA chief he directed many of the drone attacks on insurgents in Pakistan.

Mr Panetta yesterday met the Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh and Shiv Shankar Menon, the national security adviser. Today he will meet AK Antony, the defence minister.