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India pledges another $500 mn to Afghanistan, discusses terror post-Osama

Thursday May 12, 2011 11:13:28 PM, Devirupa Mitra , IANS

Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh with the President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai inspecting the Guard of Honour, at a ceremonial reception, on his arrival at Kabul airport in Afghanistan on May 12, 2011.

Kabul: India Thursday assured another $500 million in development assistance to Afghanistan and pledged to stand by the country "through thick and thin" as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh began his two-day visit here to discuss the security situation post-Osama bin Laden killing.

The two countries also agreed to set up a strategic relationship.

Manmohan Singh, who is visiting Afghanistan after a gap of six years, said at a joint press conference with President Hamid Karzai: "Our development assistance commitment to Afghanistan currently stands at approximately 1.5 billion US dollars spread over several sectors, but there are still gaps. We now have a better idea of where we can and should do more."

"We have decided to make a fresh commitment valued at approximately 500 million US dollars over the next few years. This will consist of specific projects and schemes and other initiatives that will be developed in consultation with the Government of Afghanistan," he added.

Earlier, he set the tone for the visit after being welcomed by President Karzai at the presidential palace, saying: "It is always a great honour and privilege to visit you. It is an honour for the entire people of India. India and Afghanistan are partners in progress. We will stand by you through thick and thin and reaffirm our solidarity with the people and government of Afghanistan."

The two leaders, who had an hour of "productive and constructive dialogue" in the evening, announced that the two South Asian countries will now have a strategic partnership.

"The Strategic Partnership will be implemented under the framework of a Partnership Council which will be headed by the two Foreign Ministers," Singh said at a joint press interaction with Karzai at the presidential palace complex.

As per the joint declaration, the strategic partnership envisages "the elevation of their multifaceted ties to a higher level, both in the bilateral field and in the international arena."

The strategic partnership will include regular summit level meetings and more institutionalized, regular dialogues at various levels, and on a wide-ranging of subjects.

Besides, both countries will also enter into a strategic economic partnership, to explore closer integration in the economic field, as well as, greater cooperation in sectors ranging from mining to fuel and energy.

"The two countries agreed on the importance of regional projects such as TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline), in promoting regional integration," said the joint declaration.

As the meeting came just ten days after the killing of Osama bin Laden May 2, it featured heavily in the queries addressed to the two leaders.

"The death of Osama bin Laden creates a situation," Manmohan Singh told reporters.

"I sincerely hope that all countries of the region, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, would recognise this is unique moment in history of this region whereby we all should agree to work unitedly to fight this scourge of terrorism," he added.

But, he also added that there was a certain amount of confusion on the kind of support system that Osama had got during his long stay in Pakistan.

"As far as the killing of Osama bin Laden is concerned, the picture that emerged immediately after it was with amount of confusion whether he was there with the active connivance of certain forces in Pakistan or if he was there and his presence was not known, this was conflicting," the prime minister said when asked on his reaction to Osama's killing by US security forces May 2.

"Therefore my first reaction was that one should need to go for a thorough investigation clearly to know the truth of the presence of Osama bin Laden (in Pakistan)," he added.

While refusing to comment whether India will carry out an Abbottabad-like operation, Singh also asserted that "India is not like the US".

President Karzai said Osama's killing proved Kabul's repeated assertions that terrorism was not being bred in Afghanistan.

"Afghanistan villages is not where terrorism has to be fought or pursued. So this long held claim has now been proven right... and the world has recognized that."

But he quickly added that Afghanistan "wishes brotherly relations with Pakistan" and that the Indian prime minister agreed with his assessment.

Manmohan Singh also said "India Afghanistan relations are not directed at any country. We want to develop friendliest of relations, and Pakistan should not feel threatened by it".

Karzai added that he did not believe Osama's killing would hasten the withdrawal of Western forces from his country.

But he admitted that Afghanistan would have to handle its own affairs one day, with its own means and manpower.

Earlier, the prime minister arrived in a special aircraft at Kabul airport at 11.30 a.m. He then went straight to the presidential palace complex for a welcome ceremony by the Afghan President.

In a special gesture, the prime minister is the first head of state since 2001 to stay at the personal suite of the last Afghan king Zahir Shah at the Haram Sarai inside the presidential palace.

After the ceremony, Karzai said that Singh has come to his "second home", with the Indian leader responding that his country will support Afghanistan "through thick and thin".

Hamid Karzai has already come to India ten times since 2002.





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Picture of the Day

Vice President Mohd. Hamid Ansari addresses after releasing the special issue of “Think India” quarterly on Faiz Ahmad Faiz, in New Delhi on May 10, 2011. Also seen in the picture is Member Planning Commission Dr Syeda Hameed among others.

(Photo: Hansraj)



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