In the first joint statement at the highest level ever since the ouster of the Taliban, India Monday formally endorsed Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai’s vision to restore Afghanistan’s ‘‘historic role’’ as a ‘‘land bridge’’ between Central Asia and the Indian sub-continent. Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Sunday peace between India and Pakistan is vital for the region. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who flew to Kabul today and will be staying the night, took the view that Karzai’s vision was an important step in promoting regional cooperation through trade and people-to-people contact. He also supported the Afghan President’s interest in establishing closer links with SAARC.
But that Pakistan still does not allow transit between India and Afghanistan is a major impediment in realising this vision. In this context, India is said to have been keen on an official endorsement of a car rally between Delhi and Kabul in the joint statement, Indian Express reports.
The idea was prompted by the success of the India-ASEAN car rally last year in reviving people-to-people affinity. However, it’s learnt that this was dropped at the last moment with Karzai not counting it in his immediate list of priorities. "Which cars, Indian or international? Let us first have regionally made cars, then we will happily welcome it."
The other reason, sources said, was that discussions on such a rally had not been initiated with Pakistan though an endorsement from Karzai could have helped. The Afghan President, however, said he has discussed the issue of allowing transit to Indian goods with Pakistan and the response was ‘‘not negative’’.
India and Afghanistan on Sunday signed three accords covering areas of education, healthcare and agricultural research, Pakistan Dawn reminds.
An agreement in the field of healthcare and medicinal sciences and two memorandamsa of understanding on small development projects and cooperation in agricultural research and education were signed in the presence of Prime Minister Singh and Mr Karzai after their talks, said news report reaching here.
According to the agreement in the field of healthcare and medicinal sciences, India would help the war-ravaged country in programmes relating to family welfare, public health and hospitals.
Indian analysts have said the trip provided a chance to blunt the influence of Pakistan.
India has pledged $500 million in aid to Kabul since 2002 and Singh said the country’s recovery was of political and strategic interest to India, as well as the region.
On photo: Manmohan Singh, Indian Prime Minister.