Afghanistan shoots down Indian troops support claims

A man prepares allotments of free food donated by the Kabul Chamber of Industries and Mines for distribution to needy people. (AP)
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Updated 24 April 2020

Afghanistan shoots down Indian troops support claims

  • Security chiefs dismiss ‘false’ reports that Indian military set to enter Afghanistan

KABUL: Afghan security chiefs on Thursday shot down reports that Indian troops were set to be deployed in the country to reinforce Kabul’s battle against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.

The Khaama Press News Agency, an online Afghan news service, claimed that Indian military personnel were ready to enter Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Bhutan to support efforts to stem the spread of the deadly virus.

However, National Security Council spokesman, Javid Faisal, denied that Afghanistan had called on the Indian army to help in the country’s response to the pandemic.

“There has never been such a request from Kabul, nor has there been such a suggestion from Delhi. These are false reports, even false perceptions,” he told Arab News.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government has been forging closer ties with India, which in recent days has sent several thousand tons of wheat to Afghanistan for distribution to regions where the virus outbreak has had the worst economic impact.

For the past few years, New Delhi has also been supporting Kabul with military equipment, including army helicopters, in its fight against the Taliban who have closer ties with Pakistan — India’s archrival.

The deployment of Indian troops on Afghan soil, however, would be a highly sensitive matter in the region.

According to Khaama Press and several Indian media outlets that carried the story, the planned assistance was part of India’s policy of extending a helping hand to all friendly countries in the region, and followed a mission to the Maldives last month, in which an Indian military team helped to establish COVID-19 testing laboratories and train local medical professionals in dealing with
the disease.

Afghan Ministry of Health data on Thursday revealed that 1,226 cases of COVID-19 had been recorded in the country and 40 people had died after contracting the virus. But with the country struggling to diagnose and treat infections, the figures could well be higher than officially reported.

Wracked by violence and conflict since the Soviet invasion in 1979, Afghanistan is believed to lack the health care system and infrastructure required to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shared experiences: Philippines, Libya eye stronger defense cooperation over Daesh

Updated 29 September 2020

Shared experiences: Philippines, Libya eye stronger defense cooperation over Daesh

  • Follows meeting between senior officials to discuss bilateral ties between two countries

MANILA: The Philippines and Libya are looking to explore opportunities for defense cooperation based on their “shared experiences” in fighting Daesh, the Philippines’ charge d’affaires and embassy head of mission in Tripoli, Elmer Cato, told Arab News.

“The Philippines and Libya could cooperate in such areas as counter-terrorism and intelligence sharing. We shared our experience fighting Daesh in Marawi and Sirte,” Cato said following his meeting with Libya’s Defense Minister Salahuddin Al-Nimroush on Sept. 21, referring in part to a five-month siege which pitted Filipino forces against Daesh-inspired militants, and the eight months of fighting to liberate Sirte from the group.

“In Sirte, a number of nurses were taken hostage by ISIS (Daesh) but later managed to escape. In Derna, four Filipino oil workers were taken and later executed, but their bodies have not yet been recovered. We continue to work with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in recovering the remains of our four countrymen,” he said.

He added, however, that the meeting — which included discussions on language training and military-to-military exchanges — was only “exploratory” and intended to see how the Philippines could expand ties “with one of our closest friends” in Africa.

“Cyberdefense was (also) brought up because the minister (Al-Nimroush) was an IT expert,” Cato said, before thanking him for giving the Philippine navy vessel BRP Gabriela Silang permission to enter Libyan waters and evacuate Filipinos “at the height of the fighting” in Tripoli earlier this year.

“We took the opportunity to express our appreciation to Libya for approving our request for the BRP Gabriela Silang to enter Libyan waters and dock in Tripoli, in case we needed to evacuate Filipinos,” he said.

Al-Nimroush expressed his appreciation for the Philippine’s continued presence in Tripoli through its embassy as “one of several countries that chose to keep their diplomatic missions open” and praised Filipino nurses and workers in the oil sector for their “important role” in Libya.

“The minister thanked us ... for being true friends of Libya. He said he and the Libyan people appreciated the fact that we kept our embassy in Tripoli open and allowed our people to continue caring for their sick and in helping them pump their oil. We told him that’s what friends are for,” Cato said.

He added that while Al-Nimroush “had been around Southeast Asia,” he never had the chance to visit the Philippines. 

“He told me ‘when I do get the chance to visit, I will go scuba diving in Palawano,’” Cato said.

The Philippines recently won the Best Overseas Diving Award 2020 during the 28th Marine Diving Fair held at the Sunshine City Convention Center in Tokyo, Japan. 

Cebu, Bohol, Moalboal, and Busuanga, all of which are teeming with whale sharks, snappers, dugong, and other exotic species, are some of the most popular diving sites in the Philippines.

Cato’s meeting with Al-Nimroush followed talks with Libyan Foreign Minister Faraj Abdelrahman Abumtary earlier this month, where the two discussed the state of Philippine-Libya relations and steps to strengthen bilateral ties. 

This was in addition to discussing the measures taken by Libyan authorities to ensure the well-being of more than 2,300 Filipinos residing in the country.