Security transition in Afghanistan going on well: Expert

Indo Asian News Service

New Delhi, March 4 (IANS) Transition in Afghanistan, with transfer of security responsibilities to Afghan national forces, was going on well but a lot needs to be done over the next 20 months, an international security expert said here Monday.

Brigadier (retd.) Ben Barry, a senior fellow for land warfare at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), said the neighbouring powers want Afghanistan to be a modern country capable of looking after itself.

Talking to the media after a workshop here on "Perspectives on Iran and Regional Stability", Barry said presidential elections in Afghanistan will be a crucial political factor in the situation in the country after withdrawal of NATO troops in 2014.

Asked about India and China agreeing to start a dialogue on Afghanistan, Barry said none of the powers in the neighbourhood want instability.

He said there was keenness to create "political conditions for Afghanistan's stability".

"Transition of security to Afghan national forces is going on well," he said.

He said in the 20 months left for withdrawal of NATO forces, "a lot of capacity building of Afghan forces needs to be done".

Barry said Iran was a major factor in Syria and was an ally of President Bashar al-Assad Assad.

Mark Fitzpatrick, director of IISS, a non-proliferation and disarmament programme, said he did not see much relationship between nuclear programmes of Pakistan and Iran except the boost from the proliferation linked to Pakistan nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan.

"I do not see interaction happening," he said.

Answering another query, Fitzpatrick said he does not exclude the possibility of nuclear links between Iran and North Korea.

He said the North Korean enrichment programme had its birth in Pakistan but there was no hint of more links.

He said Pakistan learnt its lessons from proliferation related to Khan.

Adam Ward, IISS director of studies, said the workshop discussed the Iran's nuclear missile programme.

He said the situation in Iran had repercussions for India and said that development of Chabahar port for access to Afghanistan can "be complicated" by US sanctions.

India and Iran have been holding talks about Chabahar port which would serve as the shortest route for ingress into Afghanistan for India.

Answering a question on China and Iran, Ward said China was practising a statecraft of patience.

He said China was holding painstaking negotiations with its neighbours and had deferred to sensitivities of small neighbours.

He said Iran, on the other hand, asserted itself for "security and regional respect", resulting in "more import of US in position of deterrence".

Sanjaya Baru, IISS director for geo-economics and strategy, said the institute had a bilateral with India's ministry of external affairs every year.

"It's unique. I don't think any other think tank has such exchange," he said.

The ORF-IISS workshop had been organised at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) here.