PM leaves for two-day visit to Afghanistan

PM leaves for two-day visit to Afghanistan

New Delhi: Six years after he made his first trip to Afghanistan as Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh on Thursday embarked on a two-day visit to Kabul during which he will discuss terrorism, regional development and ways to step up India’s assistance to the war-torn country.

The Prime Minister has emphasized that his discussions with President Hamid Karzai will cover regional developments and the fight against terrorism.

National security advisor Shivshankar Menon, foreign secretary Nirupama Rao and Prime Minister’s special envoy to Afghanistan Satinder Lamba and other senior officials were accompanying the Prime Minister.

Noting that instability and extremism in Afghanistan affect India’s progress and development and pose a danger to the country’s security, government sources said that during the meeting with the Afghan leadership, India would also like to know the views of the government there on the situation after the killing of Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

“Obviously, the situation post-killing of Osama is something of concern to all of us and we would also like to hear what President Karzai has to say about it," the sources said while maintaining that India’s concerns over reconciliation with the Taliban have not “gone away" with the killing of bin Laden.

The sources said India also does not believe that the Al-Qaeda leader’s killing will fundamentally change the working of the terror group in Afghanistan or globally or the activities of Taliban groups which operate from across the border in Pakistan from the safe sanctuaries such as Haqqani group will automatically stand diminished because of what happened to bin Laden in Abbottabad.

“We will be interested in seeing and hearing what President Karzai has to say about it," the sources said, pointing out that these security concerns are manifested in attacks on Afghanistan and its people.

The visit will also deliver “tangible" results with India to discuss ways to advance its developmental partnership with Afghanistan to a new level in the coming years.

There are indications that India will step-up its assistance for various developmental projects which already cover almost two-third of the provinces in Afghanistan.

While India is carrying out various developmental projects in Afghanistan, security still remains a big concern for Indian interests and other establishments.

The sources also pointed out that several Indian private companies have shown interest in iron ore mining and said Afghanistan has also conveyed that it welcomes Indian participation and assured it that they will do their best to provide security.