Afghanistan must succeed for regional prosperity: Singh
NEW DELHI (PAN): Breaking his official silence, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday said he will be leaving for Afghanistan to boost bilateral exchanges and to reassert New Delhi's commitment to help stabilise the war-torn country.
With officials remaining tight-lipped about the time of Singh's departure owing to security reasons, sources said the trip will take place on Thursday (May 12).
The Prime Minister Singh a pre-departure statement on the visit, saying he will be leaving on the official visit to Afghanistan at the invitation of President Hamid Karzai.
"My visit to Afghanistan is in keeping with the healthy tradition of regular high level exchanges between our two countries," he said.
President Hamid Karzai was in India in February this year.
"India and Afghanistan enjoy a deep and abiding relationship that goes back in time and history. We are people of the same region. We cannot remain unaffected by developments in Afghanistan. We take a long-term view of our partnership with Afghanistan," Singh said.
He said "if our region has to prosper and move ahead, Afghanistan must succeed in rebuilding itself."
"Its people have suffered far too long. India’s commitment to assisting the people of Afghanistan is enduring and has weathered many storms," he said.
"Since my last visit to Afghanistan in 2005, our cooperation has expanded significantly. Today, our development assistance commitment to Afghanistan is about US $ 1.5 billion. What is heartening is the support it enjoys among the Afghan people," he said.
Singh said he looks forward to wide ranging discussions with President Hamid Karzai and the Afghan leadership on ways to advance the partnership to a new level in the coming years.
"We will also exchange views on developments in the region and our common fight against the scourge of terrorism. The quest of the Afghan people for peace, stability and reconciliation needs the full support of all countries in the region and the international community," he said.
Singh, who will be accompanied by senior ministers and officials, will announce a new multimillion-dollar aid package during the two-day visit, a government official said.
India has spent $1.5 billion in Afghanistan to help build highways, hospitals and the electricity grid. It has also helped the Afghan government rebuild its police forces, judiciary and diplomatic services.
"India's commitment to assisting the people of Afghanistan is enduring," Singh said in his statement.
Singh last visited Afghanistan in 2005, but Karzai has been a frequent visitor to India. The Afghan president, who earned his college degree in India, has visited New Delhi a half dozen times in the past few years, most recently in February.
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