“It’s ongoing, there’s nothing new about it,” said Ambassador Mukhopadhyay. But the agreement does open up an “incremental” and “additional” level of cooperation based on what the Afghans want and the Indians can deliver, he added.
An Afghan official said that the document allows Afghanistan to ask for more military aid from India. “We may not need until 2014 because NATO is already with us. But this document allows us, shows a green light,” the official said.
The deal reflects the political realities closing in around Karzai: His external backers, the Americans, are heading for the exits by 2014, and many of his internal backers who are ethnic minorities have lost all patience with his outreach to Pakistan.
Enter India, a country that views Afghanistan as a historical friend and a gateway to markets and resources in Central Asia.
India and Karzai share an enemy in the Taliban. India also has expertise in training armies from developing nations.
“It is easier for us to train these guys than for Western guys to train them. We understand people who are less educated and come from a rough background,” says Ramesh Chopra, a retired Indian general.
Currently the Indian training of Afghans here is extremely limited: Less than a dozen a year, according to analysts. General Chopra says India has the capacity to train more than 20,000 Afghan soldiers a year if called upon. Regimental centers across India could each take on a few thousand “easily.”
“If you spread these guys around … we have the capability, the capacity, and we can do it at a very low price,” says Chopra.
But any expansion of training would be gradual, say Chopra and other experts.