Afghanistan signs first strategic pact with India

Last Updated: Tuesday, October 4, 2011 - 23:53

New Delhi: Giving incremental fillip to their
cooperation in strategic areas including trade and security,
India and Afghanistan on Tuesday inked a partnership pact amid
assertions that the agreement was not "directed against any
other State or group of States".

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh held "detailed and frank discussions" including
on the issue of terrorism, after which Singh said the people
of Afghanistan "deserve to live in peace and decide their
future themselves without outside interference, coercion and
intimidation."

Apart from security cooperation, the two leaders agreed
that Afghanistan’s economic integration with the Indian
economy and South Asia as a whole was in the national interest
of the people of Afghanistan and one of the ways to achieve
this is to promote closer trade, investment and transit links.

"Based on intensive consultations and deliberations, we
have finalized an Agreement on a Strategic Partnership....The
Agreement creates an institutional framework for our future
cooperation in the fields of political and security
cooperation, trade and economic cooperation, capacity building
and education, and social, cultural, civil society and
people-to-people relations," Singh said.

They also inked two MoUs-- one in the field of mineral
exploration and the other for the development of hydrocarbons.

The visit of Karzai, who arrived earlier in the day,
comes just days after the assassination of Burhanuddin
Rabbani who was heading the peace talks with Taliban.

Disillusioned by Pakistan`s attitude and its hobnobbing
with the Haqqani terror network, Karzai is also believed to
have talked about a renewed strategy for the faltering peace
talks.

The agreement, based on mutual understanding and long-
term trust between the two sides, envisages the elevation of
the multifaceted ties between the two countries to higher
levels, both in bilateral field and in international arena,
the strategic partnership document said.

The Strategic Partnership between the Sides is based upon
the principles of sovereignty, equality and territorial
integrity of States, non-interference in their internal
affairs, mutual respect and mutual benefit, it said, adding it
is "not directed against any other State or group of States."

Appreciating India as the "steadfast friend" of
Afghanistan, Karzai said New Delhi does not see his country as
"terrorism and violence" but as a country trying to live in
peace with its neighbours.

Noting that his discussions with Karzai have once again
underlined the importance of a strong and broad-based
partnership between India and Afghanistan, Singh said "our
cooperation with Afghanistan is an open book. We have
civilizational links and we are both here to stay. We have to
live and work together in times both good and bad."

Reiterating that India stands by Afghan people in their
journey towards capacity-building, reconstruction, development
and peace, Singh said "we will do all that is within our means
to help Afghanistan. India will stand by the people of
Afghanistan as they prepare to assume the responsibility for
their governance and security after the withdrawal of
international forces in 2014."

Noting that the greatest need today was for Afghan people
to have peace and stability and all countries of the region
must work to facilitate this, Singh said India will
participate in the forthcoming conferences in Istanbul and
Bonn to contribute to international and regional initiatives
to support Afghanistan’s efforts at nation building.

Both the leaders condoled the death of Rabbani with Prime
Minister Singh asserting his "brutal assassination should
serve as an occasion for all of us to strengthen our resolve
to jointly confront the menace of terrorism that threatens to
undermine the security and stability of our region".

Asserting that his country understood the dangers of
using terrorism as an instrument of state policy, Karzai said
Afghanistan "recognizes the danger this region is facing
through terrorism and radicalism that (are) being used an
instrument of state policy against civilians and innocents of
our countries".

Karzai said through the document of strategic agreement,
a first for Afghanistan with any country, the two sides have
"put in words" already existing active partnership.

The Afghanistan President also mentioned 2,000
scholarships given by India for the youth of Afghanistan over
the next five years and said "we hope India will add to this
contribution."

Earlier External Affairs Minister SM Krishna called on
Karzai.

The Afghanistan President`s visit also comes amidst his
government`s assessment that it was futile to rely on Pakistan
as it is hand-in-glove with the Haqqani group, an outfit that
is closely allied with the Taliban, and there is a need to
have deeper ties in key areas with India.

Afghan officials also maintain that they have strong
evidence that the assassination of Rabbani was organised by
the Taliban leadership based in Quetta, Pakistan, with the
help of ISI. However, Pakistani officials have denied their
involvement in Rabbani`s killing.

Convinced that further comprehensive development of their
bilateral ties would promote progress and prosperity in both
states and the region as a whole, the two sides agreed to
engage in close political cooperation and, in this respect,
establish a mechanism for regular bilateral political and
Foreign Office Consultations.

Political consultations will be led by Foreign Ministries
of the two countries and include summit-level consultations
convened at least once a year.

The two sides agreed to consult and cooperate at the
United Nations and other international, regional and
multilateral fora and such cooperation is to be aimed at
influencing decision-making in these fora in the interest of
both the countries, including support for the reform and
expansion of the UN Security Council.

Agreeing to establish a strategic dialogue to provide a
framework for cooperation in the area of national security,
the two sides said the dialogue will be led by NSAs and
involve regular consultations with the aim of intensifying
mutual efforts towards strengthening regional peace and
security.

Security cooperation between the two sides is intended to
help enhance their respective and mutual efforts in the fight
against international terrorism, organized crime, illegal
trafficking in narcotics and money laundering.

India agrees to assist, as mutually determined, in the
training, equipping and capacity building programmes for
Afghan National Security Forces.

In the interest of Afghanistan`s long-term, sustainable
development and building on the existing generous aid
programme offered by India to Afghanistan, India commits to
continue its assistance to the development and capacity-
building efforts in Afghanistan, the strategic partnership
document said.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, October 4, 2011 - 08:58

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