Unfazed by terror, India announces more aid for Afghanistan (Second Lead)

August 4th, 2008 - 9:07 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, Aug 4 (IANS) Terming the July 7 terror attack on the Indian mission in Kabul as “an attack on the friendship between India and Afghanistan”, the two countries Monday vowed to jointly combat terrorism even as New Delhi, unfazed by the attack, announced $450 million more for the reconstruction of the violence-torn country. “As the attack on our embassy in Kabul on July 7 has tragically shown, terrorism has no barriers, and is not bound by any restraints. It was an attack on the friendship between India and Afghanistan,” Prime Minister Manmohan Sigh said after holding wide-ranging talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai here.

“We have agreed that we will not allow terrorism to stand in our way. We will fight it unitedly and with full determination. 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 takes India’s total contribution for reconstruction of Afghanistan to $1.2 billion, making New Delhi one of the largest donors.

“The attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul was an attack on the friendship between India and Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai’s presence today conveys a befitting response to that attack,” a joint statement issued at the end of the talks said, while underscoring their “determination to fight terrorism unitedly and with all the forces at their command”.

Calling for a joint fight against the menace of terrorism, Karzai thanked India and the Indian people profusely. He had arrived in the Indian capital Sunday night for a two-day state visit from Colombo where he attended the 15th SAARC summit.

“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 his country in which nearly 3,000 Indian workers are involved.

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.

India will also host a meeting of the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Bureau, which brings together all countries assisting in the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan, next year.

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

Calling the road a symbol of India-Afghanistan friendship, the prime minister said that it has “brought the peoples of the two countries closer and is a tribute to the precious Indian and Afghan lives that were lost in making this project a reality”.

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 challenges of terrorism, of cold-blooded, brutal murderous activity in our two countries,” Karzai said while underlining the need to be united in fighting the menace of terrorism.

Both India and Afghanistan have accused Pakistan’s spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of masterminding the deadly terror attack on the Indian mission, a charge 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.

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

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