Manmohan Singh will discuss post-Osama situation in Ksbul

May 11th, 2011 - 9:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, May 11 (IANS) India will discuss the impact of the killing of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on the security situation in Afghanistan as well as in the region when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh travels to the war-ravaged country soon.

The prime minister is set to visit Afghanistan in the “near future”, with the dates still kept officially under wrap becuase of security concerns. He will be visiting Afghanistan after a gap of six years. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has already come here ten times since 2002.

Talks between Singh and Karzai will naturally centre on the fallout of the killing of bin Laden by US naval commandos in Pakistan May 2.

“Obviously, situation post killing is a concern for us. We would like to hear President Karzai’s views (on this),” knowledgeable sources said.

While there had been speculation that the coalition forces, led by the US, will start reducing their troop levels from this summer, Indian officials do not think it will happen so soon.

“As far as US presence is concerned, no statements from their side seems to indicate that the they are leaving,” said the sources.

Further, they pointed oout, that the operational capacity of the Afghan Taliban and other groups based in Pakistan doesn’t seem to have been much affected or deflated by Osama’s killing, as seen by the siege of government buildings in Kandahar this weekend.

In fact, most regional players at a breakfast meeting hosted by Turkey Wednesday - also attended by India - wanted US troops to continue to be at their current level, while building up the capacity of the Afghan security forces.

“The central Asian countries, especially, at the meeting were insistent that US troops should remain as a guarantor of stability,” said the sources.

The prime minister is also set to convey the assurance that India will not reduce its development assistance to Afghanistan, under any circumstance.

India is the sixth largest donor to the country, giving development assistance worth over $1.4 billion annually. It has already built some major infrastructure projects, like the 218 km Zaranj-Delaram road and a 220 kv line which provides electricity to capital Kabul.

Currently, Indian state companies are constructing the national parliament and a hydropower dam. Besides, India also sponsors around 100 small community projects spread across Afghanistan.

Some of the Indian projects, especially on road construction, had been the target of attacks in the past. Indian installations and personnel in Afghanistan have been under high security after being targeted several times by the Afghan Taliban.

“Our assistance to Afghanistan’s reconstruction and development is not contingent on presence and absence of foreign troops,” said the sources.

Manmohan Singh is expected to take with him a slew of gifts, especially an increase in sponsorship for community projects and scholarships for students.

Private sector investment will be another area of discussion, especially with 15 Indian companies vying for a share of Afghanistan’s lucrative Hajigak iron mine.

“We encourage such (private sector) participation in these big projects.. we have to now see how to develop a consortia,” said sources, noting the Afghan government has assured that the security concerns of private investors will be met.

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