Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Afghan President Pays Official Visit to India

Hamid Karzai, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan paid an official visit to India on 26 April at the invitation of Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. During his stay, President Karzai met President Pratibha Patil, and held discussions with the prime minister.
This was President Karzai's first visit to India after his reelection as the Afghan President in 2009. The visit marked the continuation of high level exchanges between the two countries, and was a manifestation of the tradition of regular consultations between India and Afghanistan.

Joint Statement
During the discussions between President Karzai and Prime Minister Singh issued a joint statement. According to it, the two sides reiterated their commitment to the strategic partnership between the two countries, and expressed satisfaction at the progress in their relations. They noted that these relations were rooted in historical and civilization links, and served not only the interests and welfare of the two countries, but also contributed to peace, stability and prosperity in the region.

Prime Minister Singh stated that India desired to see a strong, stable and prosperous Afghanistan, at peace. India remained committed to assisting Afghanistan in its development efforts in accordance with the wishes and priorities of the people of Afghanistan. India's development partnership is focused on areas of infrastructure development, human resource development and capacity building, food assistance and small development projects that bring immediate benefit to the people at the grass-roots level. The two leaders, in particular, took note of the Zaranj-Delaram road project, the Pul-e-Kumri to Kabul transmission line project and scholarship programs, which had brought direct benefit to the Afghan people. They welcomed the progress being made in the construction of the building for the Afghan Parliament. President Karzai expressed appreciation for India's assistance to the reconstruction and development efforts of the government and people of Afghanistan.

President Karzai outlined to Prime Minister Singh recent developments with regard to Afghanistan. Prime Minister Singh lauded the progress that had been made in national reconstruction efforts under President Karzai and the sacrifices made by the people of Afghanistan in their quest for building a democratic and peaceful society.

Karzai and Singh leaders reiterated their conviction that the national rebuilding process in Afghanistan should be led by the people of Afghanistan in keeping with the principles of national sovereignty, independence and non-interference in internal affairs. They expressed their grave concern over the threat posed by terrorism to Afghanistan's national development efforts. They expressed their determination to work with the international community to combat the forces of terrorism which pose a particular threat to the region.

President Karzai conveyed his outrage and deep condolences over the terrorist attacks on Indian nationals in Afghanistan, and assured the Indian side that the Government of Afghanistan is committed to providing full security to them. The Indian side welcomed these assurances. The two leaders expressed their intention to continue to consult each other with a view to consolidating their partnership and contributing to peace and stability in the region.

Development Partnership
Extending support for a strong, peaceful and democratic Afghanistan led by the Afghan people, India has said that it was ready to 'augment' civil assistance to Kabul. Karzai and the Indian prime minister reviewed the 'development partnership' and also discussed the issue of terrorism.

Singh expressed his 'deep admiration' for Karzai's 'courageous leadership in difficult times' and conveyed that India was 'ready to augment its assistance for capacity building and for skill and human resources development to help strengthen public institutions in Afghanistan. It asserted said Singh's remark reflected New Delhi's 'reluctance' to take up any new 'mega project' in Afghanistan and indicated that its role in reconstruction of the conflict-ridden country would -- at least for the time being -- be limited to giving scholarships to Afghan students to study in India; helping in skill-development of employees of the Afghan government in addition to providing vocational training to workers in private sector.

India was 'unlikely' to take up any new infrastructure project in Afghanistan.

Taliban and Al-Qa'ida Factors
India has been recalibrating its role in Afghanistan in the wake of the 26 February terrorist attack in which seven Indians were killed in Kabul. The attack came amid an aggressive diplomatic campaign by Pakistan against Indian role in Afghanistan. Indians have been among the targets of terrorists in Afghanistan in 2008 and 2009.

Interestingly, while no reference to Taliban was observed in any of the remarks made by Singh, an Indo-Asian News Service report on 26 April said that the Indian prime minister conveyed concerns to Karzai over plan to hold talks with the 'so-called moderate Taliban' in Afghanistan.
Speaking after the talks, Karzai also said the two leaders had 'discussed the upcoming Afghanistan Peace Consultations which should comprise people of Afghanistan, those from all walks of life to advise on how to move forward for reintegration and reconciliation of those elements of Taliban and others who have accepted the Constitution or not part of Al-Qa'ida or any terrorist network

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