No Indian military boots on Afghan soil
New Delhi: India on Tuesday ruled out any troop contribution in Afghanistan and said it will continue to provide development assistance to the war-torn country.
This was stated by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman after her talks with her US counterpart James Mattis during which they discussed key bilateral, regional and international issues, including terrorism emanating from Pakistan.
Amid the rising tensions due to the recent missile tests by North Korea and growing Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea, the two sides also deliberated upon ways to deepen maritime security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.
Referring to their discussion on Afghanistan, Sitharaman said they had useful interaction on how the two countries could strengthen cooperation bilaterally as well as with the Afghan government in pursuit of the common objective of a peaceful, democratic, stable and prosperous Afghanistan.
She said India has built dams, hospitals and it will continue providing development assistance to the war-torn country.
"We give them facilities in our hospitals both for those who are wounded on the field and for civilians. Assistance for medical help will continue...We shall expand if necessary.
However, of course, we have made it clear that there shall not be boots from India on the ground," she said.
Sitharaman made the remarks while replying to a question during a joint press briefing with Mattis on whether India will contribute troops in Afghanistan.
On his part, Mattis said, "we applaud India's invaluable contribution to Afghanistan and welcome further efforts to promote its democracy, stability and security."
Referring to India's concerns over cross-border terrorism from Pakistan, Sitharaman said the issue was discussed "in depth".
The Defence Minister said she has also urged Mattis to take up the issue of terrorism whenever he visits Pakistan.
On his part, Mattis said there can be "no tolerance to terrorist safe havens".
Enhanced cooperation between India and the US, regionally and globally, in pursuing shared priorities for peace, stability and combating terrorism were discussed when visiting Secretary of Defence James Mattis called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi after his meeting with the defence minister.
During the meeting, Modi appreciated the close engagement between India and the US on regional and global issues of mutual concern, according to a PMO statement.