Amid Pakistan’s attempt to influence the Taliban integration process, India and Afghanistan Thursday discussed ways to jointly combat the common threat of terrorism and work for peace and stability in the region.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met Afghan President Hamid Karzai at his residence in New Delhi and discussed a wide range of bilateral issues, including India’s developmental assistance and the security of Indians in that country. Karzai, who touched down Wednesday night for a two-day visit, assured that his government was doing everything possible to ensure security of around 4,000 Indians engaged in a raneg of projects in the violence-torn country.
Manmohan Singh is also understood to have voiced India’s apprehensions about the ongoing dialogue over integrating the so-called moderate Taliban elements, specially Pakistan’s perceived attempt to meddle in the process to further its own strategic designs.
Karzai also briefed Manmohan Singh about the progress in the proposed Taliban integration process and assured him that only those Taliban who renounce violence and accept the Afghan constitution will be considered for any power-sharing arrangement in the future.
Early this month, former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani had led a delegation of the Afghan High Council for Peace to Islamabad to seek assistance in brokering peace with the Taliban. The meeting was closely watched in New Delhi, with External Affairs Minister Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna taking up the issue with the Afghan leadership when he visited Kabul early this month.
Manmohan Singh and Karzai also discussed the prospective security situation in view of the proposed phased withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan that is expected to begin in July, said informed sources.
“The two leaders agreed that the strategic partnership between India and Afghanistan is a positive factor for peace and stability in the region,” a joint statement issued after the talks said.
“In this context, the two leaders also discussed the common threat faced by both their societies from terrorism. They agreed that this ran counter to the aspiration of their peoples,” the statement said.
Thanking India for the assistance worth around $1.3 billion it has provided over the years, the India-educated Afghan president underlined the “need for the two countries to work together in close cooperation in the interest of the people of the two countries and stability in the region at large”.
Manmohan Singh accepted Karzai’s invitation to visit Afghanistan at an early date. Karzai also called on President Pratibha Devisingh Patil. Wrapping up his 24-hour visit, Karzai flew to Munich to attend a global security conference.