New Delhi: Describing Afghan President Hamid Karzai as a close friend of India and a “steadfast supporter” of their bilateral ties, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Monday said the two had reaffirmed their shared vision of a “stable, strong, united, sovereign and prosperous Afghanistan”.
Addressing a joint press conference with the visiting Afghan president here, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said they had in their talks reviewed progress in implementation of the Strategic Partnership Agreement during the past year and reaffirmed commitment to deepen cooperation “in accordance with the vision outlined in the Agreement”.
He said the two leaders had discussed “the need to develop a strategic economic partnership, which will build on our economic synergies for mutual benefit”.
He also “reiterated to President Karzai our belief that Afghanistan’s regional economic integration will contribute to overall prosperity and stability in the region”.
Manmohan Singh said India remains committed to supporting Afghanistan in its development efforts.
India’s development assistance commitment to Afghanistan stands at $2 billion.
“We have expanded our programmes for capacity-building, institution-building and human resource development. With the signing of the memorandum of understanding today, we will launch the third phase of Small Development Projects to address the socio-economic needs of people throughout Afghanistan,” he said.
The two sides had discussed “the changes in the security and political situation in and around Afghanistan”.
“I expressed to President Karzai our belief that sustained international support and cooperation in all respects, including in combating terrorism emanating from the neighbourhood, will help Afghanistan meet these challenges. President Karzai’s own enlightened leadership will play a big part in this effort,” the prime minister said.
He said: “India supports efforts to achieve a lasting peace in Afghanistan that brings together all sections of Afghan society while preserving the achievements of the last decade, including in the area of women’s rights. We respect the choices that the Afghan people make of their own free will.
“I am confident President Karzai’s present visit will further strengthen the excellent relationship between our two countries. I once again convey my personal good wishes to President Karzai as he leads his country through a challenging time and wish to assure him that India stands with him and the people of Afghanistan.”