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India, Afghanistan to sign 3 pacts today

The talks will focus on bilateral ties and regional issues such as Pakistan's role in Taliban violence.

india Updated: Apr 10, 2006 13:15 IST
Agencies

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and visiting Afghan President Hamid Karzai will hold talks on Monday afternoon.

The talks will focus on bilateral ties and regional issues such as Pakistan's role in Taliban violence and Russia's renewed ambitions in Afghanistan.

The focus on regional issues doesn't detract from a very large bilateral agenda for discussion, ranging from cooperation in rural development and the security of over 2,000 Indian workers in Afghanistan to growing trade and economic ties between the two countries.

Three pacts on rural development, educational exchanges and standardisation between the Bureau of Indian Standards and Afghan National Standardisation Authority will be signed after delegation-level talks between the two sides later in the day.

India has already pledged $550 million for the reconstruction of that country.

With ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan plummeting to an all-time low and the US pitching for integration between South Asia and Central Asia, Karzai's five-day visit to India that began on Sunday is being watched keenly in Islamabad and Washington.

The spurt in violence in Afghanistan that has killed many American soldiers and Afghans, and Pakistan's suspected role in providing refuge to the remnants of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda is likely to dominate the discussions as New Delhi has a direct stake in the flow of terror being checked in the region.

Karzai and his Pakistani counterpart Pervez Musharraf had a spat recently over Islamabad's alleged role in the Afghan violence.

Islamabad denies any hand in the violence.

Karzai, who was given a ceremonial reception at Rashtrapati Bhavan in the morning, will discuss with Manmohan Singh steps to further fine-tune the strategy for fighting terrorism through intelligence sharing, said official sources.

Besides terrorism, the two leaders will discuss ways to step up three-way economic integration among Afghanistan, India and Pakistan through the unhindered flow of goods via the land route that can connect South Asia with Central Asia.

Karzai is also likely to take up Russia's renewed assertion to wield influence in the region.

"Russians have been trying to assert themselves in Afghanistan for some time. Karzai has a tough balancing act as he tries to keep both Moscow and Washington happy," said diplomatic sources.

Afghanistan's relations with Iran, which the US eyes warily, will also come up for discussion, sources said.

Boosting business and trade relations is another important aspect of Karzai's visit.

The Afghan President will address a joint business meeting to be organised by India's premier industrial bodies Monday where he will ask Indian business to invest in his country.

Karzai will go to Hyderabad on Tuesday where he will visit the Hi-Tech City, Tata Consultancy Services, the National Remote Sensing Agency and a project organised by the National Institute of Rural Development.