Karzai accorded ceremonial reception at Rashtrapati Bhawan

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New Delhi, Aug 4 : Afghan President Hamid Karzai was accorded a ceremonial welcome by his Indian counterpart President Pratibha Patil at the forecourt of the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan today.

Expressing his delight on visiting India, Karzai said, "I'm extremely happy to be in India. The country of long deep friendly relations with Afghanistan, the country that has specially helped Afghanistan in past six years with generosity and affection, the country that has fortunately for all of us growing importance in the world."

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with whom Karzai is to hold talks on bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual concern to both countries also greeted him.

Cooperation between both countries and security related issues are expected to dominate the talks.

Vice President Hamid Ansari, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and the leader of Opposition L.K Advani will also call on the visiting dignitary, while President Pratibha Patil will host a banquet in his honour.

Karzai, who arrived here last night on a two-day state visit to India, is being accompanied by a delegation, which includes National Security Advisor Dr. Zalmai Rasoul.

Karzai is visiting India after attending the 15th SAARC Summit in Colombo in Sri Lanka. He also attended the 14th SAARC Summit in New Delhi during which Afghanistan was admitted as a full-fledged member of SAARC.

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.

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 staff that is in Afghanistan assisting in that country's all round development.

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.

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

During Prime Minister Dr. 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.

ANI

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