M A I N   N E W S

India, Afghanistan agree to boost trade
* Sign four pacts
* PM reiterates support for Kabul
Ashok Tuteja/TNS

New Delhi, November 12
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today told Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai that only sustained international support and cooperation in all respects, including in combating terrorism emanating from the neighbourhood, could help the embattled nation meet the challenges it was faced with.

The two leaders had extensive talks covering the entire spectrum of bilateral ties as well as the challenges confronting the region after which India and Afghanistan signed four MoUs in areas such as mines, fertilisers, youth affairs and small development projects.

Ahead of Karzai’s visit, the Union Cabinet had cleared small development projects to the tune of Rs 540 crore in the war-ravaged country.

With the drawdown of Western forces set to take place in 2014, India is deeply concerned about the evolving situation in Afghanistan. New Delhi does not want the power structure to again go into the hands of radicals and has, therefore, not shown much enthusiasm towards the Taliban integration process, apprehending that the exercise could be Pakistan-driven.

The Afghan leadership, which has been appreciative of the development aid worth $2 billion already committed by India, has been nudging New Delhi to step up its role in the embattled nation in diverse fields. “India has been a great support in Afghanistan’s reconstruction effort. There are better investment opportunities in Afghanistan,” Karzai said. He said India was fully supportive of the nation building of Afghanistan.

He said the objective of his visit to India this time was to woo investors. “My visit here this time is focused on talking to and asking and requesting Indian business to come to Afghanistan. Investment opportunities in Afghanistan today are better. (It’s) a country that is more confident of its future and is willing to receive investments from its friends, especially India. And I was happy to see today the signing of certain agreements and MoUs in this regard,” the Afghan leader said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he had discussed with President Karzai the need to develop a strategic economic agreement for mutual benefit of the two nations.

“We have expanded our programmes for capacity-building, institution-building and human resource development. With the signing of MoUs today, we will launch the third phase of small development project to address the socio-economic needs of people throughout Afghanistan,” he added.

Recalling that India and Afghanistan signed a strategic partnership agreement last year, Manmohan Singh said New Delhi had reaffirmed its commitment to deepen its cooperation with Afghanistan in accordance with the vision of the accord.

The fineprint

  • Agreement Indian assistance for implementation of small development projects through local government bodies, community organisations, charitable trusts and educational and vocational Institutions

India’s contribution: The country has provided Kabul with $2 billion in development aid, making it the fifth largest bilateral donor

  • Agreement Cooperation in development of coal mineral resources

Opportunity for India: Afghanistan has been looking for ways to exploit some of its mineral wealth — estimated at up to $3 trillion — to offset the loss of revenues when foreign aid and spending drops with the withdrawal of international troops by 2014-end





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