Washington, DC – The United States is ready to welcome India’s successful efforts to persuade Afghan President Hamid Karzai to sign a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the US and end the current political deadlock on the issue, according to the US State Department. Karzai began a four day visit to India today (December 13).
Asked to comment on headlines in the region reporting that the US is asking India to pursue Karzai during his visit to sign the BSA, Marie Harf, the US State Department Deputy Spokesperson, told journalists, “We’ve said very publicly that President Karzai should sign it as soon as possible. We’ve made our position very clear. And if other countries in the region want to make the same position clear to President Karzai, we would, of course, welcome that.”
Earlier in the week, James Dobbins, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, told members of the US Senate Foreign Relations committee, “His (Karzai’s) upcoming visit to India could, I think, be quite influential because he highly respects and has good relations with the Indian government,”
Responding to questions from lawmakers, Dobbins said, “We are engaged with the neighboring countries. President Karzai has just visited Iran, but he’s also in, I think, three days from now going to be visiting India, where he’ll meet with the Prime Minister and other leaders in India. He’s visiting Turkey shortly thereafter,” Dobbins said.
Washington’s efforts to appeal for Delhi’s help are continuing since US President Barack Obama sought Indian assistance when he met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the White House in September. and according to reliable sources, Indian National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon met then with his US counterpart Susan Rice.
During this week’s maiden visit of new Indian Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Deputy Secretary of State William Burns highlighted the importance of the issue, according to sources privy to those talks.
On Thursday, Harf reiterated the US position, saying, “Our position hasn’t changed on the BSA that there are a lot of very good reasons for the Afghan people, for us, for our coalition partners, that it needs to be signed as soon as possible. We need to do planning, and we’ve been very clear about this all along.”
Karzai , who met Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and was scheduled to meet Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid, often visits India, where he studied for his Master’s degree in politics as a young man.
Washington wants the BSA signed by December 31, 2013, saying it wants to ensure that the exit of some 75,000 US-led NATO troops at the end of 2014 does not trigger a return to power of the Taliban in Kabul, but Karzai has stonewalled all US efforts to date.