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PM stresses India-Afghan ties
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August 28, 2005 13:01 IST
Declaring that a stable and prosperous Afghanistan was essential for peace and stability in the region, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] today said India intended to continue its support for economic reconstruction of the war-ravaged country.

"During my visit, I intend to further strengthen our bilateral interaction as well as reiterate our support for Afghanistan's economic reconstruction and rehabilitation," he said before leaving for his two-day visit to Afghanistan, the first by an Indian Prime Minister in 29 years.

PM's Afghan visit: Pak to watch closely

Singh, who is visiting Kabul at the invitiation of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, said India and Afghanistan enjoyed traditional bonds of friendship, a shared history, many common traditions and enduring cultural ties.

"In the past three years, our bilateral relations have reached new level of intensity and cooperation," he said. "In partnership with the Afghan Government, we have been able to implement a significant programme of reconstruction assistance."

India's aid efforts being hampered by Pak

Singh will hold wide-ranging talks with President Karzai, including cooperation in security. He will also announce developmental projects worth $ 50 million.

The Prime Minister, who is accompanied by Congress MP Rahul Gandhi [Images], will also meet Afghanistan's former King Zahir Shah. He will also Singh will also hand over a school, fully renovated by India, to Afghan authorities.

New Delhi attaches immense significance to the visit.

"This is a very important visit. Afghanistan is an extremely important country for India and the two share close cultural and historical links," Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran said ahead of the visit.

Saran noted that Afghanistan was strategically very important for India and it was ready to give full support, including expanding security cooperation, to help Kabul deal with "newly-emerging threat" from the remnants of the Taliban still based in Pakistan.

Natwar meets Karzai in Kabul

"We want Afghanistan to emerge as a democratic, independent, sovereign country, in full mastery of its own destiny.... It is in our interest to ensure that Afghanistan does not once again become a kind of centre of extremism or terrorism. Anything that threatens Afghanistan's stability is a matter of concern for us," the Foreign Secretary said.

India has already trained 800 Afghans in policing and supplied 300 trucks for its military use.

Since the Karzai government took over nearly two years ago, India has been providing a broad-based support to Afghanistan aimed at its political and economic stability.

India is providing assistance worth $ 500 million to Afghanistan, most of which is focussed on building its infrastructure and social sector, including health and education.

Afghanistan home page

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