Welcome to your 2nd home: Karzai to Manmohan

PM Manmohan Singh flew into Afghanistan for a two-day visit and assured the Afghan leadership that India will stand by the war-torn nation.

Last Updated: May 12, 2011, 16:35 PM IST

Kabul: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday flew into Afghanistan for a two-day visit and assured the
Afghan leadership that India will stand by the war-torn nation
through "thick and thin", noting the two countries were
"partners in progress."

Shortly after he landed in the Afghan capital amid tight
security cover, Singh was warmly received by Afghan President
Hamid Karzai who told the Prime Minister "Welcome to your
second home" at a ceremonial reception by the Afghan Police,
the Army and the Air Force in the grand Presidential Palace
`The Arg`.
Singh, who last visited Afghanistan in 2005, is due to
hold talks with Karzai on terrorism, Indian aid to the
war-ravaged country and fallout of the killing of al-Qaeda
leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in the region.

He was earlier received at Kabul airport by Afghan
Foreign Minister Zalmay Rasoul, Defence Minister Abdul Rahim
Wardak and other senior officials.

"This is a tremendous honour for the Afghan people to
welcome His Excellency Dr Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of
India, to second home Afghanistan," said Karzai, welcoming
Singh.
The Prime Minister, in turn, described India and
Afghanistan as "partners in progress".

"It is always a great honour and privilege to visit
you. That you have invited me to visit is an honour to entire
people of India.

"India and Afghanistan are partners in progress and we
will stand by you through thick and thin, and we reaffirm our
solidarity with the people and government of Afghanistan," he
told the Afghan president at the reception at the palace.

The presidential palace houses the president`s
office, his residence, and the office of the Afghan National
Security Adviser.
The presidential complex also houses the home of
Afghanistan`s last King Zahir Shah, where Prime Minister Singh
is staying.

Singh is the first foreign head of government for
whom the late king Zahir Shah`s home has been thrown open.

National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon, Foreign
Secretary Nirupama Rao and Prime Minister`s special envoy to
Afghanistan Satinder Lambah and other senior officials are
accompanying Singh.

Ahead of his visit, the Prime Minister had emphasised
that his discussions with President Karzai will cover regional
developments and the fight against terrorism.

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.

Indian 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 bin Laden during a covert US operation on May One.

PTI