India says no to troop deployment in Afghanistan
New Delhi: India on Tuesday ruled out troops deployment in war-torn Afghanistan even as it pledged with the US to eradicate the "scourge" of terrorism for peace and stability.
"There shall not be boots from India on the ground (in Afghanistan)," Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said at a joint media conference with visiting US Defence Secretary James Mattis after talks with him.
The Minister was replying to a question about India's contribution in Afghanistan and whether it would deploy its troops there.
Mattis is the first high ranking official of the Trump administration to visit India amidst expectation from the US that India could change its stand on a possible military presence in Afghanistan.
US President Donald Trump while unveiling his new policy on Afghanistan last month asked India to help more with the troubled country, battling decades of Islamist insurgency.
Sitharaman said India's contribution to Afghanistan has been there for a very long time in development activities like building dams, schools, hospitals, roads and any institution which the country may require.
"We are also at the moment training their officials in good governance... India's contribution has been there and we shall expand if necessary," she said.
She also said India welcomed Trump's new Afghanistan strategy and added she had "useful discussions" with Mattis on "how we can strengthen our cooperation bilaterally as well as with the government of Afghanistan in pursuit of our common objective of a peaceful, democratic, stable and prosperous Afghanistan".
Mattis lauded India's efforts in Afghanistan. "In particular, we applaud India's invaluable contributions to Afghanistan and welcome further efforts to promote Afghanistan's democracy, stability and security. We seek to expand our cooperation in building partnership across the region."
Mattis said the two countries recognized the threat to global peace from terror and both agreed that there should be "no tolerance to safe havens for terrorists".
"As global leaders India and the United States resolve to work together to eradicate this scourge," he said.
Mattis said both India and the US have suffered losses due to terrorism and "one aspect of this is universally shared by all responsible nations that there shall be no safe havens for terror".
The US Defence Secretary did not name Pakistan but Sitharaman minced no words in saying that terror attacks in Mumbai or in New York originated from Pakistan.
"The very same forces which did find safe haven in Pakistan were the forces that hit New York as well as Mumbai," she said.
She urged the US Defence Secretary to "speak out and raise this issue" on his next visit to Pakistan.
Replying to a question, Mattis appreciated India's efforts along with the international community for increasing pressure on North Korea over nuclear activities.
The two sides discussed maritime security in the India Ocean and the Indo-Pacific region.