Indian, Afghan foreign ministers hold bilateral talks

   May 1, 5:23 pm

New Delhi, May 1 (ANI): Foreign Ministers of India and Afghanistan met here on Tuesday and reviewed progress in bilateral ties.

Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul met his Indian counterpart S.M.Krishna on the sidelines of the first session of the India-Afghanistan Partnership Council, which aims to implement the Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) signed between the two nations last year.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had signed a wide-ranging agreement in October 2011 to deepen ties between the two countries, that included India assisting in the training of Afghan security forces.

India has had good relations with most of the governments that have ruled Afghanistan over the decades with the exception of the Pakistan-backed Taliban, who captured Kabul in 1996 and ruled until they were forced from power in late 2001.

Since then, India has given Afghanistan about two billion dollars for various projects, including roads, power lines and the construction of the Afghan parliament.

India is Afghanistan's sixth-largest aid donor, giving about six times more than an estimated 330 million dollars given by Pakistan. It has offered to rebuild the Afghan national airline Ariana, donating Airbus aircraft despite a shortage in its own fleet. It also trained pilots.

India wants to ensure that a withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops by 2014 does not lead to a kind of 1990s civil war that spreads militancy across borders. But it also knows its traditional foe Pakistan has far greater influence in Afghanistan.

India has already trained a small number of officers from the Afghan National Army at defence institutions in India.

Rassoul will also meet Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at his residence before leaving for Kabul on Wednesday. (ANI)

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