Indian prime minister to make first in 29 years trip to Kabul

India's prime minister Manmohan Singh will visit the Afghan capital next week, the first trip in 29 years, to discuss India's assistance program and the security situation in the region.

During his stay in Kabul on Aug. 28-29, Singh will also be present when former King Zahir Shah lays the foundation stone for the Afghan Parliament building. It is being constructed with India's assistance, said External Affairs Ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna Singh.

The last visit to Afghanistan by an Indian prime minister was in 1976, although Afghan President Hamid Karzai has visited India three times since he came to power in December 2001.

During Karzai's last visit to New Delhi in February, India and Afghanistan signed agreements to upgrade civil aviation facilities and television satellite links in war-shattered Afghanistan.

India also has agreed to train Afghans in airport management, air traffic control, navigation, safety and maintenance of aircraft.

India has already helped Afghanistan set up a series of satellite television facilities and pledged US$400 million (Ђ302 million) for reconstruction work in the areas of hydroelectric power, road construction, agriculture, industry, telecommunication, education and health.

India is pressing Pakistan to create a trade corridor so that its goods can go to Afghanistan through Pakistan. India is currently using a circuitous route, through Iran, the AP reports.

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