Indian PM in Kabul to discuss terror, aid with Karzai (Third Lead)May 12th, 2011 - 5:23 pm ICT by IANS
Kabul, May 12 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived here Thursday on his second trip to Kabul in six years, saying India and Afghanistan will discuss a range of issues including “developments in the region”.
“I look forward to wide ranging discussions with President Hamid Karzai and the Afghan leadership on ways to advance our partnership to a new level in the coming years,” Manmohan Singh said in a statement before he took off from New Delhi.
“We will also exchange views on developments in the region and our common fight against the scourge of terrorism,” he said, making no specific reference to Pakistan or the American killing of Osama bin Laden May 2 in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad.
“The quest of the Afghan people for peace, stability and reconciliation needs the full support of all countries in the region and the international community,” he added.
Indian officials have repeatedly said that while New Delhi favours reconciliation between Kabul and the Taliban, it is against Pakistan playing a dominant role with veto powers in such a development.
Manmohan Singh flew into Kabul 10 days after Osama’s killing caused an unprecedented chill in US-Pakistan relations.
The killing deep inside Pakistan was cited privately by Afghan and Indian officials as proof of their claims that Islamabad was indeed in league with Islamists.
Accompanying the prime minister are National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon, Special Envoy on Afghanistan S.K. Lamba and Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao.
The prime minister was received by Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmay Rasoul, Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and Kabul Mayor Mohammad Yunus Nawandish.
From the airport Manmohan Singh took a helicopter to reach the presidential palace where he was given a ceremonial reception.
He will have talks Thursday with Karzai, who has studied in India and is also a frequent visitor to the country. Karzai will host a banquet for the Indian leader.
Manmohan Singh is to address the joint session of Afghan parliament Friday.
The visit will be closely watched including in Pakistan, which is upset over India’s role in Afghanistan’s construction and which has attacked the working of four Indian consulates in Afghanistan.
In his departure statement, Manmohan Singh asserted that India will remain “a steadfast partner” of Afghanistan in providing development assistance and capacity building.
“If our region has to prosper and move ahead, Afghanistan must succeed in rebuilding itself. Its people have suffered far too long.
“India’s commitment to assisting the people of Afghanistan is enduring and has weathered many storms,” he said.
He added: “India and Afghanistan enjoy a deep and abiding relationship that goes back in time and history. We are people of the same region. We cannot remain unaffected by developments in Afghanistan. We take a long-term view of our partnership with Afghanistan.
“If our region has to prosper and move ahead, Afghanistan must succeed in rebuilding itself. Its people have suffered far too long.”
India is the sixth largest donor to Afghanistan. Its annual development assistance amounts to $1.5 billion.
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