New York: The US Defence Department has revealed that India cooperated with the US in the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and the evacuation of its citizens and others after the Taliban took over the country on August 15, and has agreed to help those at risk there, according to a US spokesperson.
The disclosure came out in a readout on Tuesday by department spokesperson John Kirby of Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin’s phone conversation with Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
Austin “thanked India for its cooperation throughout the evacuation process and retrograde mission in Afghanistan”, the readout of the Monday phone conversation said.
“Both the leaders committed to continue to monitor the situation in Afghanistan,” Kirby said.
Their conversation came ahead of the Quad summit convened by US President Joe Biden with Prime Ministers Narendra Modi of India, Yoshihide Suga of Japan and Scott Morrison of Australia on Friday.
India has apparently had an understated role in the chaotic US departure from Afghanistan, unlike some other countries like Qatar which cooperated overtly.
Kirby did not expand in his readout on the precise role of India.
The US evacuated over 120,000 people from Afghanistan, including its citizens and permanent residents as well as those who had worked with US organisations in the war-torn nation and others facing danger from the Taliban.
None of the evacuation flights was known to have gone to India.
Rajnath Singh, who tweeted about the conversation, did not mention the cooperation in the evacuation or troop withdrawal (for which Kirby used the military euphemism, ‘retrograde mission’).
His tweet said that they discussed bilateral defence cooperation and regional matters, including Afghanistan.
Kirby said that Singh and Austin “reiterated their commitment to ensure the Indo-Pacific region remains free and open”.
Austin told Singh that he looked forward to hosting him for the 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue of the heads of foreign affairs and defence of the two countries, expected to be held later this year, Kirby added.
Austin had visited India in March and has been in constant touch with Singh.