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India and Afghanistan have resolved to deepen economic and trade links despite uncertainties about achieving a political settlement to the lingering conflict in the war-torn country.

On a three-day visit to New Delhi, Afghanistan’s foreign minister Haneef Atmar said president Ashraf Ghani was willing to look at early presidential elections, four years ahead of the end of his second five-year term, to bring in a new government if the rebel Taliban was ready to accept participation in polls. Ghani is to unveil this proposal at a meeting in Turkey next month, one of the several such meetings planned to discuss peace in Afghanistan. Ghani’s proposal is a counter to the one put forth by the new Biden administration that looks at setting up an interim government in Afghanistan.

The twists and turns in the process notwithstanding, Atmar said that trade ties with India would continue.

“We will continue to work with India on our trade and economic cooperation, regardless of the peace process," Atmar told reporters at a press conference in New Delhi. “It has been there for millennia and will be there. We will make sure it happens in a more efficient and beneficial manner," he said.

India has invested more than $3 billion in stabilizing Afghanistan economically, in reconstruction and relief work since 2001 when US-led troops drove the Taliban out of Kabul. Almost two decades on, the US is to exit Afghanistan, with Washington reaching an agreement with the Taliban that the Afghan government was not a party to in February last year. India has steadfastly stood by the Ghani government. In a bid to stabilize Afghanistan economically, India is speeding up the development of Chabahar port in Iran that will result in landlocked Afghanistan and Central Asia using the Iranian port to trade with India and other countries.

The two countries have also agreed to form “specialized working groups in various fields to strengthen economic and development cooperation and to follow up on the planned projects at technical levels," a statement from the Afghan embassy said.

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