PM Modi reiterates India's support to Afghanistan

Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif

She said India would begin implementation of the new 500 scholarships programme for next of kin of the martyrs of Afghan National Defence and Security Forces from the academic year 2018.

The two countries also said they would cooperate in overcoming challenges posed by Islamic terror groups.

Sending a strong message to Pakistan, India and Afghanistan on Monday pledged their commitment to jointly fight to end terrorism as the visiting Afghan Foreign Minister minced no words in equating Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad terror groups with Taliban, Al Qaeda and Islamic State in Afghanistan.

Sushma Swaraj referred to the high-level visits exchanged between the two countries over the last three years, including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visits in December 2015 to inaugurate a new building of the Afghan Parliament in Kabul and then again in June 2016 to inaugurate the Salma Dam in Herat province reconstructed with India's aid. We jointly agreed to embark on a New Development Partnership in keeping with the priorities of Afghanistan.

"We support national peace and reconciliation in an atmosphere free from violence and within the framework of Afghanistan's Constitution", Ms Swaraj said, reiterating that India would continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of Afghanistan in realising their dreams.

He also reiterated India's full support to the government and people of Afghanistan, including through humanitarian and development assistance, in their efforts to build a peaceful, united, democratic and prosperous nation.

Both Sushma Swaraj and Salahuddin Rabbani were clear in their references about terrorism emanating from Pakistan though they did not name the country.

Rabbani thanked India for its unflinching support for peace and stability in Afghanistan.

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India has given four military helicopters to Afghanistan and imparted training to hundreds of Afghan security personnel.

India already has a $2 billion economic cooperation program in the country that includes building roads and hospitals.

He added: "Current regional trends bring India and Afghanistan closer than ever to protect & achieve our socio-economic and security and trade interests".

Rabbani further said that his country's friendship with India does not mean hostility to any other country and that it is not a zero-sum game.

Afghanistan, Rabbani added, is a landlocked country and its peace and prosperity are dependent on "those of our neighbours near and extended". She said that measures to enhance trade and investment cooperation was discussed and India has liberalised visas for Afghan businessmen.

"We will begin supply of wheat to Afghanistan in coming weeks through Chahbahar port", she said.

Both sides agreed to work towards the expeditious operationalisation of the Chahbahar Port in cooperation with Iran.

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