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December 12, 2001
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Afghanistan seeks long-term cooperation from India

Dhananjay Mahapatra in Kabul

Afghanistan's interim administration on Wednesday sought long-term cooperation with India in the reconstruction of the war-ravaged country, and specifically asked for help in the health and education sectors.

India's special envoy S K Lamba, on his second visit to Kabul after the collapse of the Taliban regime, said after talks with Afghan foreign and defence ministers Abdullah Abdullah and Fahim Khan respectively, that New Delhi had offered all possible assistance.

"We have promised every possible help to rebuild Afghanistan," Lambah said before leaving for Delhi.

Lambah described the meetings as "fruitful" and said the two Afghan ministers had appreciated India's help and were looking forward to a long-term cooperation.

He said Afghanistan mainly needed help in the health and education sectors.

Lambah said Indian doctors had made the I G hospital in Kabul operational and were tending to at least 250 patients every day.

The special envoy arrived on Wednesday afternoon with a planeload of medicines and four doctors to augment the health services at the hospital.

Meanwhile, the approximately 500 Sikh families in Kabul wanted an Indian school -- which had shut after the assassination of president Najibullah -- to reopen.

On being asked by Lambah in what way would the Sikhs like the Indian government to help them, the community asked for the opening of the Indian school, which had closed after the Taliban took over the city.

The envoy told them that the Indian government's first priority was to open its embassy in Kabul, and that it would reestablish the school later.

The Sikh community also wanted the Indian government to put in a word with the new Afghan government to look after minorities.

Lambah said the Afghan leaders had committed during their talks in Bonn, Germany, that they would make all ethnic groups feel secure.

PTI

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