Pranab restates help to Kabul,cites strengthening Afghan security

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United Nations, Sep 24 (UNI) External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee has renewed India's call to help restore normalcy in Afghanistan and called for strengthening of the security situation within the country.

The minister participated yesterday in a high-level meeting convened by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

In his statement at the meeting, Mr Mukherjee reaffirmed India's commitment to the reconstruction and long-term development of Afghanistan.

Mr Mukherjee cited New Delhi's pledge of 750 million US dollars in assistance. Of that amount 300 million US dollars has already been disbursed. The assistance covers virtually all regions of Afghanistan and includes areas ranging from infrastructure projects and small-scale development projects.

The minister emphasised the central importance of addressing the security situation in the country, citing the need for a robust international political solution and a stronger internal military response. Mr Mukherjee also underscored the centrality of the regional aspect in reconstruction and donor-led development processes.

Later, he met with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi and noted the need to expand further the bilateral cooperation and partnership. Pointing to the burgeoning bilateral trade, the two ministers expressed confidence that it would soon reach the 40 billion US dollar mark. Both restated their objective that interaction between the countries would increase in accordance with the ten-point initiative agreed upon by both sides during the visit of President Hu Jintao to India two years ago.

The meeting with Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mahinda Rajapakse was a continuation of the bilateral practice of close consultations.

According to sources in the Permanent Mission of India to the UN, the talks were held in a ''warm and cordial'' atmosphere. Bilateral and multilateral issues of mutual concern figured in the talks.

UNI

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