M A I N   N E W S

India to ask Pakistan for transit facility
Trade ties with Afghanistan

Kabul, August 29
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today rounded up his first two-day bilateral visit to Afghanistan by targeting the common man or the “aam aadmi of Afghanistan, saying that with India’s help, several welfare initiatives for the Afghan would be put in place soon. “We have signed agreements in areas like healthcare, medicinal science, agricultural research and educational tourism. In the next phase, we (India and Afghanistan) will cooperate on small developmental projects,” Dr Singh said while reminiscencing about his personal and public experiences of the landlocked country.

He expressed India’s firm resolve to work with Afghanistan to ensure that the war-ravaged nation was never again held hostage by terrorist forces and assured Kabul that he would pursue the transit route proposal from Afghanistan to India through Pakistan with President Pervez Musharraf.

Dr Singh was speaking at a ceremony to unveil the foundation stone for a new Afghanistan Parliament being built with Indian assistance.

“This inauguration of work on Afghan Parliament marks the beginning and strengthening of relations between the two countries,’’ Dr Singh said, adding that it also reflected India’s commitment to a democratic, stable and strong Afghanistan.

Later, addressing a press conference at the conclusion of his two-day path-breaking visit to Afghanistan, Dr Singh stated that he and Afghan President Hamid Karzai would together persuade General Musharraf to agree to the proposal for a transit route from Afghanistan to India through Pakistan.

Dr Singh said he would meet President Musharraf in New York on September 14 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session and discuss various bilateral issues, including the land route proposal, which he said was crucial for the economic development of the region.

“The dialogue is on with Pakistan. What result it will have, it is not possible for me to say now. When I meet President Musharraf, I may be able to say something,” Dr Singh said.

Dr Singh spoke of Pakistan being on board on the issue of transit of Indian goods to Afghanistan. “The main issue is to persuade Pakistan....we have to induce Pakistan to fall in line,” he said.

He was responding to a question whether Indo-Afghan ties were being held hostage by the issue of transit facilities through Pakistan. “I will not use such strong words. It is true that effectiveness of cooperation between India and Afghanistan in many areas will improve if Pakistan is also on board”.

Earlier, addressing the Indian community at a function held at the Indian Embassy here, the Prime Minister reiterated his Government’s resolve to “free India from the evils of unemployment and illiteracy’’, admitting that the country had a long way to go in this regard.

He, however, noted that with the economy growing at a robust 6 per cent rate, India could take legitimate pride in the multi-faceted achievements being made in building its economy which was today the envy of other developing countries.

Meanwhile, Mr Singh’s wife Gursharan Kaur, visiting the Indira Gandhi Child Hospital here, announced that India would donate $ 2 million for the hospital it had helped to build.

Ms Kaur also visited Bagjanana, a professional training centre. Dr Singh became the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Afghanistan in the last 29 years. Ms Indira Gandhi had visited Afghanistan in 1976.

Among the bilateral projects under consideration, especially those that would benefit the common man were, deep wells for irrigation in Herat, renovation of the Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health in Kabul, 25,000 digital phones for 11 Afghan provinces at a cost of $ 10.5 million the setting up of a 100-KW transmitter and satellite with uplinking and downlinking facilities, two electric sub-stations in the industrial park in Kabul, training of Ariana Afghan Airline officials and flight engineers, computer training for people in Herat, Jalalabad and Kandahar and the construction of a road to Belaran at $ 80 million. — Agencies

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