India our frontline partner: Hamid Karzai
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai on Monday called India a frontline partner in his war-ravaged nation's reconstruction as he met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the two South Asian leaders oversaw signing of at least four agreements of cooperation in diverse fields, including mining and social projects.
Karzai and Singh also discussed on security and political situation in and around Afghanistan and ways to combat terrorism emanating from the neighbourhood.
The agreements signed concerned mining, fertilizers and small development projects to enhance socio-economic conditions in Afghanistan.
"India has been a generous frontline partner in Afghanistan's rebuilding and reconstruction efforts," said Karzai after the signing of the agreements here and calling the Indian PM a good friend.
Karzai, who wants India's bigger role in training Afghan security forces, said relations between Afghanistan and India go back centuries, and "we have built on that foundation by signing the Strategic Partnership Agreement last year."
Karzai thanked India once again for offering them a nearly 2 billion dollars aid for reconstruction in all sectors ranging from health to defence and social development.
He said his visit was to attract Indian investors to come to Afghanistan with which India shares the same destiny to pursue prosperity, peace and stability.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, Manmohan Singh said Karzai "has long been a close friend of our country and a steadfast supporter of India-Afghanistan relations."
"We had detailed and frank discussions today covering the entire spectrum of our bilateral relations, as well as the challenges confronting the region. We reaffirmed our shared vision of a stable, strong, united, sovereign and prosperous Afghanistan. We reviewed progress in the implementation of the Strategic Partnership Agreement during the past year and reaffirmed our commitment to deepen our cooperation in accordance with the vision outlined in the Agreement," said the Indian PM.
"President Karzai and I agreed to intensify our cooperation with a special focus on deepening our economic engagement in areas ranging from agriculture and small businesses to mining and infrastructure," said Singh.
The Indian Prime Minister said he discussed with Karzai the need to develop a strategic economic partnership, which will build on the economic synergies for mutual benefit.
"I also reiterated to President Karzai our belief that Afghanistan's regional economic integration will contribute to overall prosperity and stability in the region," said Singh.
Singh said India remains committed to supporting Afghanistan in its development efforts.
"Our development assistance commitment to Afghanistan currently stands at approximately 2 billion dollars. We have expanded our programmes for capacity-building, institution-building and human resource development. With the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding today, we will launch the Third Phase of Small Development Projects to address the socio-economic needs of people throughout Afghanistan," said the PM.
"We also discussed the changes in the security and political situation in and around Afghanistan. I expressed to President Karzai our belief that sustained international support and cooperation in all respects, including in combating terrorism emanating from the neighbourhood, will help Afghanistan meet these challenges."
"President Karzai's own enlightened leadership will play a big part in this effort," said Singh.
Hamid Karzai, who began his trip with Mumbai on Nov 9, was earlier given the ceremonial reception at Rashtrapati Bhavan (President's House) in New Delhi on Monday. Karzai also inspected a guard of honour.