Kabul: Describing Afghanistan as "a very
special friend" and not just a neighbour, Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh on Thursday said the war-torn country can "count" on
India to build its society, economy and polity.
"We wish to see a peaceful, stable, democratic and
pluralistic Afghanistan, that is in harmony with the culture,
genius and temperament of its people," Singh said at a
banquet lunch hosted by Afghan President Hamid Karzai shortly
after he arrived here on a two-day visit to Afghanistan.
Singh, who is on his second visit to this country in six
years, noted Afghanistan had endured great suffering and that
the time has come to put an end to violence.
"We strongly support the Afghan people`s quest for peace
and reconciliation. India supports the unity, integrity and
prosperity of Afghanistan," the Prime Minister said.
"The journey ahead for both India and Afghanistan to
fulfil the aspirations of our peoples is a long one. There
will be obstacles, but if we stand together we will achieve
our goals and we will win," he said.
The banquet, which was attended by senior ministers in
the Afghan government and officials, had a lavish spread
comprising Afghan delicacies and mouth-watering breads.
"I am delighted to be here in Afghanistan.... When I
see the love, affection and friendship in the eyes of the many
faces around me, I know that I am visiting not just a
neighbour but a very special friend," Singh said.
Calling Karzai a "great patriot", the Prime Minister
said Afghanistan has made "significant" strides under his
leadership as he has led his country without fear or favour.
Recalling the centuries-old ties between the two
countries, Singh said they are immortalised in the poetry of
Amir Khusro, the shrines of Salim Chisti and Moinuddin Chisti
and the grave of Bidel Dehlavi.
"I have come here with a message of solidarity,
friendship and goodwill from the people of India to the people
of Afghanistan. India is your neighbour and partner in
development. You can count on us as you build your society,
economy and polity," he said.
Stressing the need for a long-term vision of bilateral
relations and acting accordingly, Singh said, "We should be
ambitious in shaping our future ourselves. We should harness
the goodwill that exists between our people and encourage much
greater exchanges at all levels both within and outside