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India, Afghanistan to ink pacts during Karzai's visit

India, Afghanistan to ink pacts during Karzais visit

New Delhi: India and Afghanistan will discuss prospects of enhancing Delhi's role in training Afghan security forces and sign four pacts in diverse areas, including mines and fertilisers, during Afghan President Hamid Karzai's visit to the country later this week.

India-educated Karzai begins his four-day visit to India from Mumbai Nov 9 where he will interact with top Indian businessmen and pitch for greater investment in Afghanistan.

In Mumbai, he will speak to investors and focus on how regional economies can be integrated, Afghan Ambassador Shaida Mohammad Abdali told reporters here Monday.

The envoy underlined that Karzai will be visiting India at "a critical time" as international combat troops prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan by 2014.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Karzai will hold wide-ranging talks in New Delhi Nov 12.

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

The envoy stressed that the visit will seek to intensify strategic dialogue between India and Afghanistan on bilateral and regional issues. He indicated that the two sides will be looking to step up Indian training for Afghan national security forces.

"India has committed itself to strengthening the security of Afghanistan," he said, alluding to the strategic partnership agreement India and Afghanistan signed last year.

With the fragile security situation in his country as a backdrop, the envoy called for intensifying international and regional cooperation in combating terrorism in Afghanistan.

"We need to cooperate against combating terrorism. We don't have a satisfactory situation so far. We still have pockets of insurgent groups and sanctuaries of terror," he said.

Karzai's visit to India comes at a time when a resurgent Taliban has escalated violence across the country, including in Bamiyan, which was widely seen as the most peaceful region of Afghanistan.

Karzai will also be updating India on the progress in reconciliation with the Taliban and preparations in his country for elections in April 2014.

The Afghan envoy said talks are on with sections of the Taliban at multiple levels. The focus, he said, was on engaging with "reconciliable elements" of the Taliban.

India has reiterated many a time that any reconciliation with the Taliban should follow the "red lines" that includes accommodating only those Taliban elements who renounce links with al-Qaeda and extremist outfits and those who accept Afghanistan's constitution.

Lauding 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 focussing on life-changing initiatives for Afghanistan and the region," he said.

India has pledged over $2 billion for a host of reconstruction projects in Afghanistan, which has generated enormous goodwill in that country.

Around 5,000 Indian nationals are engaged in a host of reconstruction projects in Afghanistan.


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