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India to help Afghanistan deal with terror

August 28, 2005 17:43 IST

India on Sunday offered all possible assistance to Afghanistan in effectively dealing with terrorism and rebuilding the war-ravaged country.

"We have discussed terrorist threat worldwide as also in Afghanistan and in India. There is convergence of views that terrorism poses a threat anywhere and everywhere and we have to deal together," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said at a joint press conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai after their one-to-one and delegation-level talks.

Singh, who is the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Kabul in 29 years, the last being Indira Gandhi in 1976, said, "It is for the government and people of Afghanistan to indicate what type of assistance they want. We are ready to give it."

On the regrouping of Taliban in Afghanistan, Karzai asserted that terrorist activities would not deter people from participating in the upcoming Parliamentary elections.

"Terrorism had come to Afghanistan three-and-a-half years ago. With the help of the international community and the people of Afghanistan, it was defeated and thrown out...but we see continuation of such activities and we feel very sad about it."

The prime minister stressed the need for joint efforts to tackle the menace of terrorism, which he said, "poses a serious threat to civilised existence. So we have an obligation to work together."

Observing that Afghanistan was moving forward to more peace and stability, Karzai said it still faced "occasions of terrorist activity."

He said Afghanistan was negotiating with "brothers in Pakistan. There has been cooperation with Pakistan in the anti-terrorist drive, which is thriving very well."

"All of us-- India, Pakistan and Afghanistan -- need to join hands to fight this global menace," Karzai said.

Asked what kind of cooperation India was offering to Afghanistan in combating terrorism, the Dr Singh said, "This is an ongoing process. There are several dimensions. We have to strengthen the economy and see that the democratic process moves forward smoothly."

Asked which of the two proposed gas pipelines to India-- Iran-Pakistan or Turkmenistan-Afghanistan route-- would be chosen, the Prime Minister said it was not a question of preference.

"India's needs for commercial energy are increasing at an explosive rate. Our economy is now growing at a rate of seven to eight per cent per annum. There is an enormous unmet demand for commercial energy that is going to increase.

"So, we need both the pipelines from Iran and Pakistan and Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan. So, it is not a question and or," Singh said.

Asked if India, Pakistan and Afghanistan could work together for development of the region, Dr Singh said, "I pledge myself to work whole-heartedly with President Karzai and for that matter with President Musharraf and other like-minded persons to realise a grand vision."

The prime minister said he was "very much hopeful" that all countries of the region will have the "will, vision and wisdom to realise a common shared destiny of the people" of this region.

"I mentioned to President Karzai the enormous possibility of cooperation to ensure that poverty, illness and disease do not have to be the inevitable lot of a majority of people of this region," Singh said.

Karzai said Afghanistan was very happy to see a dialogue for better relation between India and Pakistan and noted that Afghanistan was directly affected by this friendship between the two countries as it is a member of the committee of nations in this part of the world.

He said the three countries jointly can have a "massive impact" on the economy of this region and also worldwide.

On military-to-military contacts with India, Karzai said the rebuilding of Afghanistan is an international exercise.

"The rebuilding is in all walks of life. There is already a contribution by India through the League Nations structure-- which is the United States and the coalition forces to the military in Afghanistan."

In the context of international co-operation with Afghanistan, "Any assistance is welcome from India, from Pakistan and from other countries around us," he said.

Dr Singh said, "It is for the government and people of Afghanistan to recommend the type of assistance they need from India and as far as our country is concerned, we are quite willing to extend whatever assistance, and the people of Afghanistan may consider it in our mutual interest.

Karzai said he believed that as human beings "we have no other destiny but prosperity and peace" and drew a comparison between "our region and other regions" asking whether people in "this part of the world" lacked anything in terms of capabilities.

The Afghan president further said he was of the opinion that "we in this region must begin to present a future different from the present to the generations that will come and that can only come by having a vision grander than what we sometimes see...A vision for mankind and for all people in this region".

Observing that this was "very much possible", Karzai welcomed the ongoing dialogue between India and Pakistan and pointed out that Afghanistan was affected "both ways".

Asked if he had talked to Musharraf on opening the land route to facilitate transport between Afghanistan and India through Pakistan, Karzai said the improvement of relations between India and Pakistan "is such a necessity for the people of this whole region that overtakes every other consideration.

"We hope that with this improvement--transit from India, Pakistan and Afghanistan--and beyond and from Afghanistan to Pakistan and India becomes a reality," he said.

Maintaining that Kabul has held discussions with New Delhi and Islamabad, the Afghan leader said as peace talks progressed, "this vision of ours will become a reality, not only for generations of today but more so for generations that will follow us".

Asked specifically if he had held talks with Musharraf on the transit issue, Karzai said, "It has been considered. President Musharraf discussed this with me in a very positive manner. There is a desire as well in Pakistan to see a transit trade developing between countries in this region.

"I don't know how long it will take but there has not been negative response. I hope that the talks between the two countries-- India and Pakistan -- will go further in order to carve out such an opportunity".

On the possibility of having a Delhi-Kabul car rally, Karzai said "which cars--India made cars or cars from rest of the world. Let's make regionally made cars run on the roads. We will be happy to see that".


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