Karzai in talks for Indian military aid



KABUL // The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, plans to discuss potential arms deals with Indian officials during a trip to New Delhi this week, officials said. This comes at a time when tensions are running high on Afghanistan's disputed border with Pakistan.

Kabul's overtures to New Delhi are likely to rile Islamabad, where a new government, led by two-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif, is set to take office soon, promising improved ties with India.

Mr Karzai's spokesman, Aimal Faizi, said the Afghan leader would discuss the flare-up on the Durand Line, the colonial-era border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, in addition to ways to strengthen Afghan security institutions.

"Afghanistan has already agreed and signed a strategic pact with India and based on that agreement, India assists Afghanistan on several grounds, including the military sector," Mr Faizi said.

"In order to strengthen Afghan security forces, we will ask India to help us with military needs and shortages."

India has been training Afghan military officers at its military institutions for years but provided little weapons assistance except for a few vehicles.

In 2011, New Delhi signed a strategic partnership agreement with Kabul, which allowed the two sides to expand training as Afghan forces prepared for next year's take over of security from foreign troops.

An Indian foreign ministry spokesman, Syed Akbaruddin, said New Delhi's cooperation with Afghanistan was focused on development projects but security was also an important aspect given the challenges it faced.

"While we are striving to realise this vision of an economically viable Afghanistan we have no illusions that we can ignore the political and security issues that stand in the way of realising that vision," said Mr Akbaruddin.

He said the question of equipping Afghan forces was best discussed through the strategic partnership agreement and that a meeting would be held later this year to discuss security and political matters.

Pakistan has also proposed a strategic partnership with Afghanistan and offered military training to the Afghanistan national army, but Kabul has been cool on the idea.

Earlier this month border guards from the two countries, which have blamed each other for providing sanctuary to militant groups, clashed at their disputed border on the Durand Line.

Afghanistan said a policeman was killed and accused Pakistan of using heavy artillery and tanks during the fighting along Afghanistan's eastern Nangarhar province. It added that several Afghan border posts were destroyed.

Pakistan said the clashes were the result of unprovoked Afghan action.

Afghan security forces have since asked for better equipment to deal with the border threat. An official said that the Afghan delegation to New Delhi would explore the possibility of equipping the army with Indian artillery.

A Nato diplomat in Kabul said Afghanistan was also seeking to build up its air force and had sought aircraft to beef up border defences.

"The Afghans are taking the border problem very seriously. They have asked us for equipment - emotions are very high," the diplomat said.

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Will the pound fall to parity with the dollar?

The idea of pound parity now seems less far-fetched as the risk grows that Britain may split away from the European Union without a deal.

Rupert Harrison, a fund manager at BlackRock, sees the risk of it falling to trade level with the dollar on a no-deal Brexit. The view echoes Morgan Stanley’s recent forecast that the currency can plunge toward $1 (Dh3.67) on such an outcome. That isn’t the majority view yet – a Bloomberg survey this month estimated the pound will slide to $1.10 should the UK exit the bloc without an agreement.

New Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly said that Britain will leave the EU on the October 31 deadline with or without an agreement, fuelling concern the nation is headed for a disorderly departure and fanning pessimism toward the pound. Sterling has fallen more than 7 per cent in the past three months, the worst performance among major developed-market currencies.

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The pound fell 0.8 per cent to $1.2033 on Friday, its weakest closing level since the 1980s, after a report on the second quarter showed the UK economy shrank for the first time in six years. The data means it is likely the Bank of England will cut interest rates, according to Mizuho Bank.

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