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India, Afghanistan to sign 4 pacts during Karzai's visit

November 09, 2012 18:35 IST

India is expected to ink four pacts, including one in the field of mining with mineral-rich Afghanistan during the four-day visit of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who arrived in Mumbai on Friday.

Karzai will meet business leaders in Mumbai to seek investments in the war-ravaged country before arriving here to hold talks with the top leadership, in a bid to intensify the cooperation under the India-Afghanistan strategic dialogue on bilateral and regional issues.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Karzai will hold wide-ranging talks, including on regional security situation and safety of Indian nationals and Indian projects on November 12 in New Delhi, according to sources.

Briefing reporters on the visit, Additional Secretary (Pakistan-Iran-Afghanistan) in Ministry of External Affairs Yash Sinha said apart from reviewing entire gamut of bilateral relations, the two leaders will also discuss regional and international issues.

He also noted India was playing a lead role in attracting investments in the war-torn country as part of its policy to 'change the narrative of anxiety to narrative of hope'.

On regional economic cooperation, he said India hopes that existing treaties such as Afghanistan Pakistan Trade and Transit Agreement will at some point be extended to cover transit of goods from India to Afghanistan.

Ahead of Karzai's visit, Afghanistan envoy Shaida Mohammad Abdali had indicated that the two sides will also explore ways to step up Indian training for Afghan national security forces during the visit, saying, "India has committed itself to strengthening security of Afghanistan."

He has also said Karzai was coming to India at 'a critical time' as international combat troops prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan by 2014.

Four MoUs will be signed between the two countries in areas of mines, youth affairs, small development projects and fertilizers, he said.

Terming India as a 'special friend' of Afghanistan, Abdali said India is 'a reliable and all-season friend, which has been with Afghanistan in good and bad times'. "India is focusing on life-changing initiatives for Afghanistan and the region," he said.

Karzai is also expected to apprise India of the status of peace process and the efforts made by his government to prepare for the post-2014 scenario when Western combat forces will withdraw from Afghanistan.

For the Indian side, the security of their nationals and projects will be the focus during the talks, sources said.

Indians in Afghanistan include Afghans of Indian origin as well as Indian construction and aid workers involved in rebuilding and humanitarian assistance efforts.

Having committed a $2.3 billion aid programme, India is one of the largest donors to Afghanistan, investing in the economy, humanitarian aid, education, development, construction and electrical projects.

Significantly, India on Thursday cleared another tranche of development aid to the tune of Rs 540 crore to be given to the war-torn country where such help has earlier directly benefited the local communities.

The Union Cabinet, at a meeting chaired by the prime minister, approved the third phase of the Small Development Projects to be implemented across all the 34 provinces of Afghanistan.

"The visit provides an opportunity for both countries to review and consolidate their strategic partnership and discuss bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest", Sinha said.

The Afghan president will deliver the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Memorial Lecture organised by the Indian Council of Cultural Relations in New Delhi, he added.

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