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Karzai assures India about Indo-Afghan relations

January 09, 2011 21:17 IST

With India raising concern over Pakistan's increasing involvement in Afghanistan's transition process, President Hamid Karzai on Sunday assured visiting External Affairs Minister S M Krishna that his government will not make any move that is detrimental to New Delhi's interest.

Karzai sought to allay India's concerns during his meeting with Krishna, who is in Kabul on a two-day visit. The Afghan President assured Krishna that India was 'uppermost' on his government's priorities and appreciated New Delhi's contribution to the post-war reconstruction and rebuilding efforts in his country.

He said the Afghan government would not act in any way that is detrimental to India's interests, official sources said. India, which has pledged $1.3 billion to the reconstruction projects in Afghanistan, has repeatedly expressed apprehensions over Pakistan's involvement in the transition process and over giving Taliban representation in the government.

Besides Karzai, Krishna also met his Afghan counterpart Zalmay Rasool, National Security Advisor Rangin Dadfar Spanta and former president Burhanuddin Rabbani, who recently led an Afghan delegation to Pakistan to hold discussions over the peace process.

During the Afghan delegation's meetings with the top Pakistani leadership, the two countries decided to set up a high-powered joint consultative commission to take forward the peace process in Afghanistan.

Rabbani briefed Krishna on the outcome of his visit to Islamabad, sources said. Earlier, addressing a joint press conference with Rasool, Krishna had said that any 'external' interference in the transition process of Afghanistan will be detrimental to both its success and the future of the people of Afghanistan, though he did not directly name Pakistan.

Rasool, on his part said that the peace process cannot succeed without being led by the Afghan people and noted that the process was fully controlled by it. The two leaders held extensive talks on issues like terrorism in the region, security of Indians and various economic projects.

"Any external interference in the reintegration process would be detrimental to its success and for the future of democratic, stable, pluralistic and prosperous Afghanistan," Krishna said.

The external affairs minister also asserted that despite security concerns, India will continue to provide developmental assistance as long as the Afghan government wants. He also noted that Afghanistan government has assured India of full security.

"India is not going to be cowed down by such threats. We will continue to remain in Afghanistan as long as the legitimately elected government of Afghanistan wants us...," Krishna said.

Krishna also reiterated India's position that reintegration can only happen of those who abjure violence, snap their links with terror outfits and abide by the constitution of Afghanistan.

The two sides also discussed the existence of militants' safe havens across the border.

Apart from discussing long-term projects, India announced the establishment of a course in Pashtun and Deri languages in Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi and the export of 100,000 tonnes of wheat to Afghanistan.

Rasool said the two sides also discussed mining projects, keeping Indian companies' interest in mind along with various Indian developmental projects such as Salma dam, capacity building in civilian areas and trade and economic cooperation.

Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, the transition of the country's security apparatus to Afghan forces, and reintegration and reconciliation process also came up for discussion. Before winding up his visit, Krishna also addressed the Indian embassy officials and staff at the heavily-fortified mission.

"I salute you," he said, commending their work in difficult circumstances. Krishna had on Saturday met First Vice President Mohammad Qasim Fahim and Second Vice President Mohammad Karim Khalili and former Speaker of the House of the People Mohammmad Yonus Qanooni.

Ahead of his visit, the external affairs minister said that Indian missions in Afghanistan were under constant threat but the Afghan government has 'fully assured' New Delhi about their security.

Apart from staff in missions, nearly 4,000 Indians are building roads, sanitation projects and power lines in this country. India is also building the new Afghan Parliament. Besides its embassy in Kabul, India has consulates in Jalalabad, Kandahar, Mazar-e-Sharif and Herat.

Priyanka Tikoo In Kabul
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