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India Pledges $1 Billion in Economic Aid to Afghanistan

India offered $1 billion in economic aid to Afghanistan, the latest sign of tightening ties between the two countries that is likely to raise concerns in neighboring Pakistan.

Wednesday’s announcement came after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani held talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a visit to New Delhi. Both countries have seen their relationship with Pakistan grow tense in recent months, as each accuses it of not doing enough to crack down on terrorists that operate within its borders.

For its part, Pakistan has long viewed India’s collaboration with Afghanistan with suspicion, concerned it is being encircled by its rivals. It denies giving support to terrorists, saying it is also victim to terror attacks.

Mr. Ghani reached out to Pakistan after taking power in 2014, in hopes it would use its influence over the Taliban to facilitate peace talks. But his relationship with Islamabad has since frayed. He has accused Pakistan of sheltering terrorists responsible for orchestrating attacks in Afghanistan.

Pakistani officials in Islamabad didn’t immediately respond to a request for a reaction to the announcement.

India and Afghanistan, long wary of aggravating Pakistan, have been growing closer, marking a shift in their regional strategies. Last year, New Delhi announced the supply of four Russian Mi-25 attack helicopters in its first transfer of weapons to the country since the fall of the Taliban government. In May, the two sides came together with Iran to sign a deal for the development of a port in Iran that would allow the countries to trade directly without having to go through Pakistan.

Afghanistan has asked India for more military assistance, including equipment and training. On Wednesday, the two sides agreed to “strengthen security and defense cooperation.”

In a joint statement, Messrs. Modi and Ghani made a number of veiled references to Pakistan, expressing “grave concern at continued use of terrorism and violence in the region for achieving political objectives” and calling on “the concerned to put an end to all sponsorship, support, safe havens and sanctuaries to terrorists.”

India’s foreign secretary, S. Jaishankar, said in a news conference after the talks that the two leaders also discussed “obstructions” caused by Pakistan, which is wedged between India and Afghanistan, in the trade and transit of goods, including hundreds of thousands of tons of wheat to help with Afghanistan’s food shortage. India says Islamabad hasn’t responded to its request to allow the food grains to be transported over its territory.

original source: http://www.wsj.com/articles/india-pledges-1-billion-in-economic-aid-to-afghanistan-1473861874

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