Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will travel to Kabul Thursday in what will be his first visit to Afghanistan since August 2005. His visit can be expected to deliver “a lot of tangibles”, a government source said, without elaborating. He will likely tell Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai that India’s assistance to Afghanistan’s reconstruction and development was not contingent on presence and absence of foreign troops, and that India was in it for the long haul.
The source indicated that India can be expected to stay the course in Afghanistan in the post-Osama bin Laden era, and continue its reconstruction and development programmes in a “low key”, “sotto voce” manner.
India would be willing to help the government and people of Afghanistan in every which way possible, in areas ranging from infrastructure, capacity building and skill development to mining and agriculture.
New Delhi believed it was too early to conclude how Osama’s killing would affect the course of events in the Af-Pak region because terrorist groups such as the Taliban and the Haqqani network remained “as strong and virulent as ever.”
India would be keen to encourage private sector investments and facilitate the participation of its companies. For instance, about 15 firms have expressed interest in the development of the Hajigak iron ore mine.
India would also be willing to step up its training efforts in areas such as policing, information technology, and mining. Kabul was exploring the possibility of sending Afghans to the Indian School of Mines at Dhanbad in Jharkhand.
Mr Singh said in a statement on the eve of his departure that he would hold wide-ranging discussions with President Hamid Karzai on ways to advance the bilateral ties and also exchange views on regional developments and the common fight against terrorism.
“We cannot remain unaffected by developments in Afghanistan. We take a long-term view of our partnership with Afghanistan,” he said, noting that “if our region has to prosper and move ahead, Afghanistan must succeed in rebuilding itself.” “India’s commitment to assisting the people of Afghanistan is enduring and has weathered many storms,” Mr Singh said. India’s development assistance commitment to Afghanistan is over `4,000 crore, making it the sixth largest donor. The government source clarified that India was “not propagating an exclusivist approach” or “not making demands” of Afghanistan. Asian Age