New Delhi: India and Afghanistan on Wednesday decided to strengthen connectivity and engage in projects of high economic and social impact at a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visiting Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani.

The two leaders noted that bilateral trade has crossed $1 billion and discussed ways of expanding cooperation, according to a statement by the Indian government.

Modi and Ghani “expressed determination to strengthen connectivity, including through Chabahar port and the air freight corridor. It was agreed to deepen the new development partnership in the areas of high impact projects in this field of infrastructure, human resources development and other capacity building projects in Afghanistan," the statement said.

India is committed to developing the strategically crucial Iranian port of Chabahar, which New Delhi sees as critical for reaching landlocked Afghanistan and Central Asia, bypassing Pakistan. Chabahar, which is situated less than 100 nautical miles from the Chinese-built port of Gwadar in Pakistan, is expected to play a key role in trade between India and Afghanistan. India is in discussions with the US to get an exemption from the sanctions imposed on Iran for participating in the port project. The sanctions are set to take effect in November.

President Ghani briefed Modi on steps taken towards peace and reconciliation and in countering terrorism and extremism in the region. India reiterated support to an “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled peace and reconciliation process", according to the statement.

Modi emphasized India’s commitment to support the Afghan government’s efforts towards building peace and security, a key factor for enhanced trade. He also condemned terror attacks and violence in the war-torn country. The two sides decided to work closely with their regional and international partners for peace, stability and progress.

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