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India announces aid for Afghanistan

Indian-Afghan bilateral relations are fast developing into a partnership which is very special to us, says EAM Pranab.

india Updated: Jan 24, 2007 20:30 IST

India is to give Afghanistan another $100 million in aid, taking its total assistance to Kabul to $750 million since 2001, Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said on Tuesday.

Bilateral relations have blossomed since the Taliban regime fell just over five years ago, and this has caused some concern in Pakistan, Afghanistan's neighbour and India's old rival.

"Indian-Afghan bilateral relations are fast developing into a partnership which is very special to us," Mukherjee told a news conference with his Afghan counterpart, Rangeen Dadfar Spanta.

"We are glad to be able to contribute to the reconstruction and rebuilding of Afghanistan," he said.

Mukherjee said he would extend an invitation from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Afghan President Hamid Karzai to attend a south Asian summit in New Delhi this year.

The seven-member South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation has agreed to make Afghanistan its eighth member.

The two countries also announced new projects under which India will help establish small projects of less than $1 million and train civil servants.

Both Mukherjee and Spanta said better relations between India and Afghanistan were good for peace in the region.

Asked about Pakistani concern over warming Indian-Afghan ties, Mukherjee spoke of talks he held in Islamabad this month.

"During my last visit to Pakistan I emphasised the need of India and Pakistan coming closer together so that we can provide peace and stability to the whole region," he said.

He said he had asked Islamabad to extend land transit facilities to Indian goods and services going to Afghanistan. Pakistan had yet to allow the movement.

New Delhi is providing help to Kabul in a number of fields including health, education and infrastructure.

India is also helping Afghanistan build a new parliament which Spanta said symbolised India's commitment to human rights and democracy in his country.