India not invited to send troops to Afghanistan: US commander

November 19th, 2008 - 11:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghNew York, Nov 19 (IANS) The US joint commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, General David McKiernan, Tuesday clarified that India has not been approached by the United States to send its troops to the troubled country. “That is not true,” McKiernan said during the course of his interaction with members of the Atlantic Council - a Washington-headquartered think tank for NATO countries.

McKiernan said this question was posed to him early this week in Islamabad during an interaction with a group of 70 Pakistani parliamentarians.

Meeting at the residence of US Ambassador to Pakistan Anne W. Patterson, the Pakistan MPs, he said, wanted to know if the United States has invited India to send 1,000 troops to Afghanistan by Christmas.

“A couple of the questions I got were why you Americans came to Afghanistan when it was so peaceful. Before you got there. So I have long tried to answer that and, a long way and then another one was we understand that you’ve invited a thousand Indian soldiers to serve in Afghanistan by Christmas. Some of you are looking at me like you believe that. But no, that’s not true,” the general said.

However, diplomatic sources told IANS that the United States indeed had made a request to India early this year to send its troops to Afghanistan as part of the US-led fight against terrorism in Afghanistan.

The issue was forcefully raised during the visit of Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony to Washington in September. The proposal was politely but firmly rejected, with India apparently arguing that this was not in its long-term national and geo-political interests.

Sources said the issue is believed to have briefly occurred raised during the meeting of US President George W Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the White House in last week of September. However, on all occasions, whenever such a request has come, India has out rightly rejected it, informed sources said.

For quite some time now, the US has been pushing for more Indian involvement in Afghanistan. India, as of now, is majorly involved in the developmental and reconstruction activities of Afghanistan. It is one of the largest donors to Afghanistan.

India has often said it would send its troops overseas only as UN peacekeepers. Some 8,000 Indian troops currently serve under the UN flag in various hotspots around the world, including in the Congo, Ethiopia/Eritrea, Lebanon and the Golan Heights.

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