PM calls Afghanistan spl friend; says it can count on India

Written by: Pti
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Manmohan Singh
Kabul, May 12: Describing Afghanistan as "a very special friend" and not just a neighbour, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said the war-torn country can "count" on India to build its society, economy and polity.

"We wish to see a peaceful, stable, democratic and pluralistic Afghanistan, that is in harmony with the culture, genius and temperament of its people," Singh said at a banquet lunch hosted by Afghan President Hamid Karzai shortly after he arrived here on a two-day visit to Afghanistan.

Singh, who is on his second visit to this country in six years, noted Afghanistan had endured great suffering and that the time has come to put an end to violence.

"We strongly support the Afghan people''s quest for peace and reconciliation. India supports the unity, integrity and prosperity of Afghanistan," the Prime Minister said.

"The journey ahead for both India and Afghanistan to fulfil the aspirations of our peoples is a long one. There will be obstacles, but if we stand together we will achieve our goals and we will win," he said.

The banquet, which was attended by senior ministers in the Afghan government and officials, had a lavish spread comprising Afghan delicacies and mouth-watering breads.

"I am delighted to be here in Afghanistan.... When I see the love, affection and friendship in the eyes of the many faces around me, I know that I am visiting not just a neighbour but a very special friend," Singh said.

Calling Karzai a "great patriot", the Prime Minister said Afghanistan has made "significant" strides under his leadership as he has led his country without fear or favour.

Recalling the centuries-old ties between the two countries, Singh said they are immortalised in the poetry of Amir Khusro, the shrines of Salim Chisti and Moinuddin Chisti and the grave of Bidel Dehlavi.

"I have come here with a message of solidarity, friendship and goodwill from the people of India to the people of Afghanistan. India is your neighbour and partner in development. You can count on us as you build your society, economy and polity," he said.

Stressing the need for a long-term vision of bilateral relations and acting accordingly, Singh said, "We should be ambitious in shaping our future ourselves. We should harness the goodwill that exists between our people and encourage much greater exchanges at all levels both within and outside government."


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