‘India will do everything to promote security, stability in Afghanistan’

New Delhi, May 22 (IANS) In the backdrop of reports that Afghan President Hamid Karzai may have sought increased security assistance from New Delhi during his two-day visit, his third in two years, India said Wednesday it would do everything within its means to promote stability and security in that country.

Karzai, who was in India from May 20-22, held talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday evening. There were reports the Afghan leader would seek increased security assistance from India ahead of the 2014 drawdown by international forces and skirmishes with Pakistani forces on its border.

External affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin, asked if Karzai had taken up the issue in his talks, evaded a direct answer, saying that the appropriate forum – the political and security cooperation working group – will be meeting later this year and would take up the request of increased security assistance if requested.

He said Karzai and Manmohan Singh “held discussions on political and security issues, and also on development and economic issues”.

“India stands ready and will do everything within our means to promote stability and security in Afghanistan,” he said.

He said India’s role in Afghanistan “is not transitional or transitory and we will be there for all times”.

Ahead of his India visit, Karzai’s spokesperson had said in Kabul that the Afghan leader would discuss in New Delhi the flare-up with Pakistani forces on the Durand Line — the colonial-era border between Afghanistan and Pakistan – and ways to strengthen Afghan security institutions.

Afghan Ambassador to India Shaida M. Abdali had also said earlier this month that Afghanistan was keen on enhanced defence ties with India, including supply of lethal and non-lethal military equipment.

India provides officer-level training to Afghan cadets at the Indian Military Academy.

Karzai met Bharatiya Janata Party senior leader L.K. Advani during the visit, plus the CEOs of various companies, said the spokesperson.

As Afghanistan moves towards the “critical transition” period in view of the drawdown of international forces, the spokesperson said it was agreed during Karzai’s meeting with Manmohan Singh that “India and Afghanistan will work together and will do all within their means to promote security and stability in Afghanistan”.

“We are neighbours, our engagement with Afghanistan will continue” beyond 2014, he said.

With Afghanistan headed for presidential elections next year and facing the prospect of having to look for its own economic survival without international assistance and with the Afghan National Army to take over from the international forces, Akbaruddin said India “is ready to provide and work with Afghanistan in all the areas”.

“I don’t think there is any concern (in view of the transition period) as such, but as a neighbour we do understand that there is need to be engaged in all the areas,” he said.

As part of India’s engagement in development work in Afghanistan, the vice president of TCS S. Ramadorai visited Afghanistan as part of a skill development programme there, while noted agriculture scientist M.S. Swaminathan visited the country in connection with setting up of a National Agricultural University in Kabul, the official said.

India is helping construct the Salma dam and the parliament building in Kabul. It was decided during Karzai’s visit to “expedite work on the parliament building construction to have it ready by the first half of next year,” the spokesperson said.

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