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India will walk shoulder to shoulder with people of Afghanistan, says Modi

mudAfghanistan President Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday said his country, which was yet to emerge from shadows of terrorism, was fighting a battle against terror and extremism on behalf of its partners and was looking forward to an economically integrated Asia, where peace between States prevailed. He wanted India and Afghanistan to make SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) an economic reality.

Mr. Ghani was making at a joint statement with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the end of talks between them here.

Both said they were inclined to take forward the trade, economic, security and people-to-people ties between the two nations.

Mr. Modi said India would walk shoulder to shoulder with the people of Afghanistan in a “mission of global importance.”

Though not many agreements were signed, the two countries listed out several areas of cooperation and how they intended to forge ties to fight terrorism and pave the way for a stronger SAARC.

Mr. Modi said Afghanistan’s direct surface link to India and the rest of South Asia, and increased connectivity to sea, could turn it into a hub that connected Asia’s diverse regions and beyond.

“The relationship between India and Afghanistan is not just between two countries or governments. It is a timeless link of human hearts. Fourteen years ago, we started a new chapter in our relationship, in a new era for Afghanistan, under the leadership of President Karzai. The partnership has blossomed despite barriers of geography and hurdles of politics. We will continue this journey in partnership with President Ghani and his National Unity Government with Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah,” Mr. Modi said.

The Prime Minister asserted that India’s help would not be limited to the period of transition or the decade of transformation.It was an enduring commitment. India had a shared interest in the success of an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process, which should be conducted within the framework of the Constitution of Afghanistan, without the shadow of violence.

“We share Afghanistan’s pain over persisting terrorism and extremist violence that destroy lives and derail progress. We are deeply grateful to the Afghan security forces, who protect our people in Afghanistan as they would their own.” he said.

Referring to talks on surface transport networks between the two countries, Mr. Modi said, “we are ready to welcome Afghan trucks at the ICP Attari. We are also prepared to join the successor agreement to Afghan Pakistan Trade and Transit Agreement. This will re-establish one of the oldest trading routes of South Asia. I also reaffirm my commitment to take the Chahbahar Port project in Iran forward. We will also quickly conclude a bilateral Motor Vehicles Agreement.”

India would also expand development partnership, which includes infrastructure, agriculture, connectivity, human resource development, community projects, he noted.

Mr. Ghani thanked India for extending US$ 2 billion development aid to Afghanistan, He said the two nations should stand united, both in the region, and globally to continue this phenomenon. “We require your moral support and your understanding for our quest. Afghanistan is a roundabout, where goods, people flow, and now it wants countries to return, with pipelines, railways and fibre optics,” he observed.

On Afghanistan’s commitment to fight terrorism, he said shadow of terror haunted the children, women and youth, and terror must be confronted and overcome. “We are determined to change regional nature of cooperation. Terror cannot be classified into good or bad,” he pointed out.

Mr. Ghani expressed the hope that Mr Modi would visit Kabul not only to inaugurate the new Parliament building, which is being constructed by India, but also visit the Bamiyan Valley.

President Ghani said his generation of 1950s grew up on Indian texts and people, and Abul Kalam Azad and Mahatma Gandhi were not just names, but legends.

He thanked Rabindranath Tagore for his “Kabuliwala”, which gave Afghanistan a bigger brand image than it could have ever paid for.