Hamid Karzai to visit India from August 4

New Delhi, Aug. 1: Afghan President Hamid KarzaiAfghan President Hamid Karzai will pay a three-day state visit to India from August 4.

A spokesman of the Indian External Affairs Ministry said that Karzai would be visiting New Delhi after attending the 15th SAARC Summit in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Afghan Foreign Affairs Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta and the country’s National Security Advisor Dr. Zalmai Rasoul.

The visit assumes significance in the wake of the recent bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul in which over 50 people, including an Indian diplomat and an Indian Army brigadier were killed.

Sources said that during his visit, Karzai is likely to brief the Indian leadership about the steps that is government is taking to ensure greater protection for the Indian workforce and embassy staf that is in Afghanistan assisting in that country’s all round development.

Though no details of the meetings that are to take place next week were revealed, sources said Karzai will hold talks on bilateral, regional and international issues with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

President Pratibha Devisingh Patil would also host a banquet in Karzai’s honour on Monday evening.

Vice President Hamid Ansari, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Leader of the Opposition L K Advani will also call on him during his visit.

Karzai''s trip to New Delhi comes amid mounting worries in both India and Afghanistan about the growing activities of the Taliban, which many feel continues to enjoy the backing of the Pakistani intelligence establishment.

Karzai had strongly condemned the July 7 devastating suicide bomb attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul that killed 44 people. Barring four Indians, all others were Afghans. It was the first attack on an Indian mission anywhere in the world.

Afghan officials implicitly blamed Pakistan for the bombing.

Relations between India and Afghanistan date back to ancient history, but since the collapse of the Taliban regime in October 2001, modern-day relations have reached new heights.

President Karzai will be making his sixth visit to India since 2002, while Prime Manmohan Singh has visited Kabul in 2005.

The current level of economic assistance to Afghanistan from India is an estimated 750 million US dollars.

India has followed a policy of high-level engagement with Afghanistan through extensive and wider ranging humanitarian, financial and project assistance and participation in international efforts aimed at political reconciliation and economic rebuilding of Afghanistan.

In 2003, Himachal Pradesh University conferred an honorary doctorate on President Karzai and India announced a financial commitment of US 70 million dolars for the construction of the Zaranj-Delaram road in Afghanistan. Both sides also signed a Preferential Trade Agreement.

During a working visit to India in February 2005, two Memorandums of Understanding on cooperation in the fields of Civil Aviation and Media and Information were signed.

In April 2006, three bilateral agreements were signed:

1. MOU on Cooperation in the Field of Standardization
2. MOU on Cooperation in the Field of Rural Development
3. MOU on Cooperation in the Field of Education

Karzai also attended the 14th SAARC Summit at New Delhi at which Afghanistan was admitted as a full-fledged member of SAARC.

During Prime Minister Singh’s visit to Afghanistan in 2005, both countries reaffirmed their common interest in reinvigorating the past ties and developing a new partnership for the 21st century.

India reiterated its continued commitment to the reconstruction and economic development of Afghanistan.

During that visit, three important agreements were signed: • MOU on Small Developmental Projects • Agreement on Cooperation in the field of Healthcare and Medicinal Science • MOU on Cooperation in the field of Agricultural Research & Education

Several ministerial visits have also taken place between the two countries since November-December 2001.

Afghan Foreign Minister, Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta made his maiden official visit to India from June 29 – July 1, 2006 after assuming charge.

Indian External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh visited Kabul on December 22, 2001 to attend inauguration of Interim Authority under the chairmanship of President Hamid Karzai. His successor Yashwant Sinha visited Kabul from August 10-12, 2002, and announced reconstruction assistance of US 4 million dollars each for Indira Gandhi Hospital and Habibia School. He also visited Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif and Kandahar.

During his visit on February 15, 2005, External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh handed over Surgical Block of Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health (IGICH) and 50 trucks to Afghan National Army (ANA). He also announced setting up of a diagnostic centre with Indian assistance in IGICH and supply of 5000 meters of cloth for summer uniforms to Afghan National Army.

His successor Pranab Mukherjee visited Kabul from January 23-24, 2007 to hand over the formal invitation to President Karzai for the 14th SAARC Summit to be held in New Delhi on April 3-4, 2007. He also had delegation level talks with his Afghan counterpart Rangin Dadfar Spanta.

Both the Foreign Ministers witnessed the signing of a MoU among India, Afghanistan and UNDP on Capacity Building in Public Administration. India is providing US 1.08 million dollars with a matching contribution from UNDP. Under this programme, 30 Indian experts would work with Afghan Government to help build competence and capability in the reconstruction and rebuilding process.

Mukherjee handed over the Polyclinic Block of the Indira Gandhi Institute for Child Health Care as also a consignment of medicines from India to the Afghan authorities. A plaque was also unveiled naming the road adjacent to Indira Gandhi Institute for Child Health Care (IGICH) as “Indira Gandhi Street” in memory of the former Indian Prime Minister.

National Security Advisor, M. K Narayanan visited Kabul, at the invitation of National Security Advisor of Afghanistan, Dr Zalmay Rassoul from September 30-October 1, 
2007. During his visit, NSA had meetings with his counterpart and called on President Karzai.

India has also attended international meetings on reconstruction in Afghanistan since 2001.

There are concrete plans of cooperation in the field of:
1) Health: Construction of Hospitals, Training of Afghan doctors in India, Deputation of Indian doctors in various parts of Afghanistan, and supply of medical stores.

2) Education: Construction of Schools, deputation of experts.

3) Agriculture: Supply of seeds, and agricultural implements, and deputation of experts.

4) Information Technology: Computerization of Afghan Foreign Ministry, setting up of computer training center, and training of Afghan nationals in computer courses in India.
5) Industrial Development: Restoration and rebuilding of Industrial Park in Kabul.

6) Civil Aviation: Deputation of experts.

Details are being discussed with the Afghan authorities to prioritise the implementation of specific projects. (ANI)