NEW DELHI – Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is urging leaders of India to playa more robust role in Afghanistan, as U. S tensions with Pakistan,India’s arch-rival, continue to churn. India has not been a major military player in the war, largelyfocusing on economic development and reconstruction in Afghanstan,but U.S. defense officials said Panetta will talk with Indianleaders about possibly helping to train the Afghan army and police. Such discussions, however, come at a particularly fragile time andrisk further roiling U.S.
relations with Pakistan. On Monday a CIA drone strike targeted a top al-Qaida leader insidePakistan. And that same day, NATO reached an agreement with otherCentral Asia nations that would bypass Pakistan to move militaryequipment in and out of Afghanistan. Washington and Islamabad have been deadlocked over negotiations tore-open ground supply routes into Afghanistan that were shut downlate last year after a U.S. airstrike mistakenly killed two dozenPakistani soldiers.
It’s not clear whether the new NATO accord could be used topressure Pakistan into reaching an agreement on opening its groundroutes, or whether Panetta’s visit to India at this time would helpor hinder that effort. Senior defense officials traveling with Panetta said the U.S. wouldlike India and Pakistan to work in concert to help stabilizeAfghanistan, despite their long, historical conflicts and lack oftrust. Both countries, they said, would benefit from a more stableand secure Afghanistan. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to preview themeetings, said the U.S. Spout Pouch
has also talked to Pakistan about its rolein the future of Afghanistan, so Islamabad should have nothing tofear. Pakistan, however, is likely to view any increased Indian role inAfghanistan with suspicion and worry that it may dilute Islamabad’sinfluence on the Afghans’ future. While the defense officials acknowledged the historical tensionbetween India and Pakistan, they said the two countries have takensome steps, particularly this year, to repair the fractures. Still, Panetta’s two-day stop here in New Delhi will gain attentionin Islamabad, particularly since in his previous job as CIA chiefhe directed many of the drone attacks on insurgents in Pakistanthat raised the ire of officials there. Plastic Roll Film
Panetta, who has been Pentagon chief for nearly a year, has yet tovisit Pakistan, leaving much of the ongoing negotiations to his topmilitary commanders and U.S. diplomats. India plays a central role in the Pentagon’s new defense strategythat puts greater focus on the Asia-Pacific. It was singled out fora mention in the strategy document, in part because of India’sstrategic location at the crossroads between East and West Asia. As such, defense officials said India can help promote stabilityand peace in both the Asia Pacific region, but also more broadlyacross South and Central Asia. Coffee Packaging Bags Manufacturer
America’s defense ties with India have grown steadily since about2000, including a substantial increase in arms sales that now totalmore than $8.5 billion over the last 11 years. Panetta is slated to meet Tuesday with Indian Prime MinisterManmohan Singh and Shiv Shankar Menon, the national securityadvisor. He will meet with Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony onWednesday and also give a speech at the Institute for DefenseStudies and Analyses, an Indian think tank.