Unfazed by Kabul terror, India announces fresh aid for Afghanistan (Lead)

August 4th, 2008 - 5:24 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, Aug 4 (IANS) Undeterred by the July 7 attack on its mission in Kabul, India Monday announced fresh assistance of $450 million for the reconstruction of violence-torn Afghanistan as the two countries vowed to fight the menace of terrorism jointly. “It was an attack on the friendship between India and Afghanistan. We will fight it unitedly and with determination,” Prime Minister Manmohan Sigh said after holding wide-ranging talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai here.

“India has an abiding commitment to Afghanistan’s efforts to build a democratic, stable, prosperous and pluralistic polity. We will fulfil all our commitments to Afghanistan,” Manmohan Singh said while announcing an additional development aid of $450 million for rebuilding the violence-ravaged country.

The fresh aid has taken India’s total contribution to reconstruction of Afghanistan to $1.2 billion, making New Delhi one of the largest donors to that country.

Calling for a joint fight against the menace of terrorism, Karzai thanked India and the Indian people profusely for this assistance at “a very critical juncture in the history of Afghanistan.”

“India has proved to be a valuable ally and is in the forefront of rebuilding Afghanistan,” Karzai said while alluding to a wide range of activities ranging from building roads and schools to constructing dams, power transmission lines and the parliament building in which nearly 3,000 Indian workers are involved in his country.

The two leaders also reviewed the security of the Indian mission in Kabul and its four consulates in Herat, Kandhahar, Jalalabad and Mazar-e-Sharif and agreed to upgrade their security in view of the threat perception from a resurgent Taliban.

In a clear message to those who are using violence to force India to quit its much-appreciated reconstruction activities in Afghanistan, Manmohan Singh also announced that it will hand over the India-aided Zaranj-Delaram road, the target of many terror attacks allegedly masterminded by the Taliban militia, to Afghanistan soon.

Calling the road a symbol of India-Afghanistan friendship, the prime minister said the road “has brought the peoples of the two countries closer.”

“It’s a tribute to Indians and Afghans who have died while building this road,” said Manmohan Singh while referring to the many Indian workers and Afghans who have died while building this vital road link.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee is likely to go to Kabul for the formal inauguration of the crucial road link that will reduce Afghanistan’s dependence on Pakistan for overland access to Central Asia.

Karzai was unstinting in his condemnation of the suicide attack on the Indian mission that killed four Indians, including an Indian diplomat and a defence attaché of brigadier rank, and 54 Afghans.

Together, India and Afghanistan are facing the challenge of terrorism and cold-blooded, brutal and murderous activities in their territory, Karzai said.

“The two countries and the world at large have no option but to fight the menace of terrorism. Afghanistan stands resolutely with our allies in the war against terrorism,” the India-educated Karzai said while calling the task of eliminating terrorism “a moral responsibility” of all concerned countries in the region and the world.

Both India and Afghanistan have accused Pakistan’s spy agency Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) of masterminding the deadly terror attack on the Indian mission in Kabul nearly a month ago, a charge that is vehemently denied by Islamabad.

The US officials have also claimed that they have evidence, based on intelligence intercepts, linking the ISI to the Kabul blasts.

Karzai arrived in the Indian capital Sunday night for a two-day state visit from Colombo, where he attended the 15th SAARC summit along with Manmohan Singh and other leaders of South Asian countries.

The issue of the alleged complicity of the ISI dominated talks between Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousaf Raza Gilani on the sidelines of the SAARC summit.

Pakistan has offered to conduct an independent probe into the Kabul blasts that have cast a shadow on the over four-year-old peace process between the two countries. Karzai also met Gilani in Colombo and discussed the need to work out “common strategy” to deal with extremism and terrorism, including across the borders.

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