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India, Afghanistan to sign key strategic, economic pacts

Tuesday October 04, 2011 07:13:56 PM, IANS

New Delhi: In a clear message to Pakistan, India and Afghanistan Tuesday will sign a landmark strategic partnership agreement that could include a role for India in training Afghan security forces.

The two countries will also add greater economic heft to their ties by signing pacts in areas of mineral exploration and hydrocarbons after talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and visiting Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna Tuesday called on Karzai here and discussed the entire gamut of bilateral and regional issues.

They discussed the contours of the strategic partnership pact, a step that is sure to worry Islamabad, which has stepped up its efforts to control the future dispensation in Kabul after the withdrawal of the US-led NATO forces by 2014.

The strategic partnership agreement was envisaged in the May 12 joint declaration during Manmohan Singh's visit to Kabul. The pact is aimed at bolstering cooperation against international terror and could include India training Afghan security forces for counter-terror operations.

The pact will entail institutionalizing dialogue at the level of the National Security Adviser to discuss security issues.

In view of the planned pullout of NATO troops by 2014, Afghanistan is also negotiating long-term strategic partnership agreements with the US and Europe.

Karzai comes at a time when Afghanistan is yet again reeling under terror attacks, Krishna told reporters here after his talks with Karzai.

He voiced India's concern at the recent assassinations of Karzai's half-brother Ahmed Wali Karzai and Burhanuddin Rabbani, Afghanistan's chief interlocutor with the Taliban.

"These two assassinations are a reminder not only to Afghanistan but also India and the region that we will have to do more in terms of strengthening our strategy to fight terror," he said.

Krishna said the two countries will be signing a strategic partnership agreement later in the evening after talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

India is fully committed to Afghanistan in our relationship, friendship and in our strategic partnership so that we can continue to work in the days, months and years to come, Krishna stressed.

India has pledged $2 billion for a slew of development projects in Afghanistan, making it one of the largest regional donors to the violence-hit country.

Krishna's message of solidarity with Kabul was aimed at Pakistan, which is resentful of New Delhi's expanding developmental activities in Afghanistan.

Karzai began his two-day visit to India, his second trip to the country this year, in the morning amid growing shared concerns about Pakistan's continuing support to Afghan Taliban and proxies like the Haqqani network.

Karzai is expected to brief Manmohan Singh about his revised strategy for reconciliation with the Taliban in the aftermath of the assassination of Rabbani, his chief peace envoy.

The two leaders are also expected to discuss Pakistani spy agency ISI's alleged complicity in supporting Taliban militants like the Haqqani network and ways to pressure Islamabad to end such covert support to the extremist militia.

Kabul has confronted Islamabad with new evidence which showed that Rabbani's killer was "a citizen of Pakistan".

Pakistan's Foreign Office has strongly rejected the allegations of the ISI's involvement in Rabbani's killing.






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