Karzai, Manmohan discuss Afghan situation, regional issues

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New Delhi, Feb 3 (PTI) Amid India''s concern over someaspects of the transition process in Afghanistan, PrimeMinister Manmohan Singh and Afghan President Hamid Karzai helddiscussions here today on a range of bilateral and regionalissues, including the common threat of terrorism.

Noting that terrorism ran counter to the aspirations oftheir peoples, the two leaders discussed the common threatfaced by both their societies from terrorism and agreed thatthe strategic partnership between India and Afghanistan is a"positive factor" for peace and stability in the region, ajoint statement, issued after their bilateral meeting, said.

Apart from raising the issue of safety and security ofIndians in that country, the Prime Minister is understood tohave voiced India''s concerns over proposed reintegration ofthe Taliban and reiterated New Delhi''s position on ''Afghan-ledand Afghan-owned'' peace deal.

India has already made clear its concern over Pakistan''sincreasing involvement in Afghanistan''s transition process,saying "any external interference in the reintegration processwould be detrimental to its success and for the future ofdemocratic, stable, pluralistic and prosperous Afghanistan."

The security of Indians in the war-torn country is yetanother matter of concern for New Delhi.

Apart from staff in Indian missions in Afghanistan, some4,000 Indians are building roads, sanitation projects andpower lines in that country. India is also building the newAfghan Parliament.

In February last year, seven Indians were killed in aTaliban suicide attack on foreigners in Kabul, which claimed16 lives and left 20 people critically injured.

During the meeting, which was followed by a lunch hostedby Singh for Karzai, the Indian side also reiterated its long-term commitment to the reconstruction and development ofAfghanistan, and to the efforts of his government''s to build astrong, independent, democratic, peaceful and prosperousnation.

Karzai, who is here to address the inaugural session ofthe Delhi Sustainable Development Summit, expressed gratitudeof Afghan people for the assistance provided by India overthe years.

The Afghan President underlined the need for the twocountries to work together in close cooperation in theinterest of the people of the two countries and stability inthe region at large, the statement said.

Singh accepted an invitation from President Karzai tovisit Afghanistan at an early date.

Karzai also held meetings with his Indian counterpartPratibha Patil during his two-day visit.

"The visit reflected the close friendship between thepeople of India and Afghanistan and the continuing traditionof high-level and frequent consultations between the leadersof the two countries," the statement said.

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