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Sushma Swaraj, Hamid Karzai agree to intensify security, defence ties

Sushma Swaraj, Hamid Karzai agree to intensify security, defence ties

Kabul: As Afghanistan prepares for a democratic transition of power, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Afghan President Hamid Karazi on Wednesday held wide-ranging talks on political and security situation in the war-torn country and agreed to intensify cooperation in areas like security and defence.

During the meeting, Swaraj expressed India's strong commitment to continue extending its all possible help to Afghanistan to meet various challenges and conveyed that it will remain engaged in the country's reconstruction activities in a significant way.

Both the sides underlined the need for expanding trade ties.

Swaraj, who is on her first visit here as external affairs minister, drove straight from the airport to presidential palace where she held talks with Karzai on various key issues.

Sources said entire political situation was also discussed during the meeting.

Swaraj said India will speed up various development projects in Afghanistan.

As Nato forces prepare to withdraw from the country, Afghanistan wants India to help it in meeting security challenges.

Afghanistan has been pressing India for supply of military hardware and weapons system to it.

Sources said Afghan side conveyed to India its security needs.

Seeking to enhance strategic cooperation and help Afghanistan deal with key challenges of security and stability, Swaraj arrived here earlier in the day.
Swaraj's visit also assumes significance as it comes amid rising fears of the reemergence of the Taliban and other al-Qaida linked elements in the country following withdrawal of Nato forces by end of the year.

Afghanistan also awaits eagerly the result of the disputed second round of the presidential election held on June 14. An audit of votes of the election has already been completed and results may be announced in the next few days.

Former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah and former finance minister Ashraf Ghani were in a tight race in the polls and the winner will succeed incumbent President Hamid Karzai who has been in power for nearly 13 years.

Afghanistan has been pressing India for supplying military hardware to strengthen its security set up in view of drawdown of Nato forces. Karzai has already given a "wish-list" to India.

After a visit to New Delhi in December last year, Karzai had expressed satisfaction over India's response to his demand for stepping up military aid and said the "facts" on such supplies were much better than "what is known".

Asked whether NDA government will review policy towards Afghanistan, Swaraj had said there was no question of any change in it and asserted that India will continue to help the country in its reconstruction.

India has invested $2 billion in aid and reconstruction and trained scores of Afghan officers but has been careful in supply of arms and military hardware for fear of provoking Pakistan as well as armed groups in Afghanistan.

Swaraj is also likely to seek better security arrangement for Indian assets in Afghanistan.

The Indian consulate in Herat province was attacked on this day in May. In August last year, a failed bombing against the Indian consulate in Jalalabad city near the border with Pakistan killed nine people, including six children. No Indian officials were hurt.

The Indian embassy in Kabul was attacked twice in 2008 and 2009 that left 75 people dead.

The issue of Afghanistan refusing to sign the bilateral security agreement (BSA) with the US is also likely to figure in talks between Swaraj and Karzai.

Karzai has refused to ink the proposed Afghan-US security pact demanding that the US must put an immediate end to military raids on Afghan homes and demonstrate its commitment to peace talks before he would sign the agreement.

The BSA would provide for stay of nearly 15,000 US forces at nine locations across Afghanistan.

Afghan officials said over 350,000 Afghan forces have taken responsibility of security and they were capable of taking care of the country's security.

Among India's major infrastructure projects in the country include, the highway from Zaranj to Delaram in South-Western Afghanistan which is considered a symbol of India's commitment to reconstruction efforts in the country. India is also constructing the Afghan Parliament building.

India has also taken initiative to develop the Chabahar port in Iran which could act as a major transit point for India to Afghanistan. Chabahar port is strategically crucial as it gives access route to Afghanistan. The port, which is surrounded by a free trade zone, is vital for transit facility from India to Afghanistan.

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