The Passing Out Parade at the Indian Military Academy (IMA) in Dehradun saw the commissioning of 52 officers of the Afghan National Army on Saturday. This latest batch of officers passed the final step into Chetwode Hall in the presence of 16 senior dignitaries, both, serving and retired from the ANA.
These included Musa Khan Akbarzada, Governor of Ghazni Province, Mehrabulddin Safi, Governor of Kapisa Province, Lieutenant General Khaliq Khan, Director General Chief of Staff, CGS Office, Lieutenant General Khudaid Khan, former Minister of Counter Narcotics among others. All of these 16 dignitaries are also products of IMA, with at least five also pass-outs from India’s National Defense Academy (NDA) at Khadakwasla.
These dignitaries were trained at Indian institutions between the years 1974 to 1982, during which period, India trained a total of 37 officers of the Afghan army. Training was later suspended due to the war in Afghanistan.
This visit was planned at the initiative of National Security Adviser (NSA) Shivshanker Menon during his visit to Afghanistan last February.
This latest batch of 52 Afghan Gentlemen Cadets (GCs) follows around 100 officers commissioned at IMA since 2010. The single largest batch of 58 Afghan GCs was commissioned in December, 2012. Another 96 Afghan GCs are currently undergoing training at IMA and will be commissioned in two batches next summer and at the end of 2014.
India has also trained 160 Afghan officers at the Officers Training Academy (OTA) at Chennai, so far.
India and Afghanistan signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) in October, 2011. Clause 05 of the agreement on ‘Political and Security Cooperation’ stated that “India agrees to assist, as mutually determined, in the training, equipping and capacity building programs for Afghan National Security Forces.”
Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s visit to India that concluded on Saturday renewed this commitment.
He met with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and according to the Ministry of External Affairs, “the two leaders also agreed on deepening defence and security cooperation, including through enhancement in training and meeting the equipment and infrastructure needs of Afghanistan National Security and Defense Forces that would increase their operational capabilities and mobility. The two leaders also agreed to expand opportunities for higher military education in India for Afghan officers.”
Karzai later told the media that his talks with PM Manmohan Singh on military training and equipment were “very productive, resulting in satisfaction for the Afghan side”. He said, “We hope to have an army to defend Afghanistan through its own resources and its own citizens. To that objective we are being helped by India.”
Karzai admitted that Afghanistan has given a wishlist of military equipment that it needs from India and that New Delhi was weighing the implications of greater defense cooperation. He refused to divulge the details of the wishlist.
But as the SPA makes evident, India is equipping and helping Afghan forces in a substantial way even though neither country would like to discuss it openly, given the Pakistani allergy to anything that India is perceived to be doing in Afghanistan.
Since independence India has trained officers from countries in Asia and Africa as part of its soft diplomacy.
Archis Mohan contributed to this report.