Amid a standoff between the US and the embattled Afghan President, India on Saturday saluted Hamid Karzai's "extraordinary and brave" leadership in nurturing democracy and peace in the war-torn country.
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, in his speech at the inauguration of Afghanistan's first national agriculture university here, backed Karzai and lauded his leadership in the last 12 years.
Khurshid, who arrived here earlier on Saturday on a day-long visit, said upcoming elections in the country were a testament to the fact that democracy had taken firm roots.
"These elections are a testament to the fact that democracy has taken firm roots in this country. It is also a testament to your extraordinary and brave leadership over the last 12 years, and the manner in which you have nurtured the plant of democracy in this country," he said.
"Like in India, today no one can predict the eventual election result in Afghanistan. Many of the presidential tickets that will fight elections represent political and democratic alliances between groups that one could never imagine will one day become allies in an electoral battle." Khurshid made the remarks while jointly inaugurating the 'Afghan National Agricultural Sciences and Technology University (ANASTU)' with Karzai.
The varsity, a major capacity-building project backed by India, has been set up on the site of the erstwhile headquarters of the Taliban. India has pledged to invest up to USD 8 million in the project, portions of which are ready while others are being built.
India's development assistance programme for Afghanistan currently stands at $ 2 billion, making it the leading donor nation among all regional countries.
Khurshid's visit took place amid a rift between Karzai and the US, jeopardising their proposed Bilateral Security Agreement that is vital for the limited presence of American forces in Afghanistan after the drawdown this year.
During his visit to Kandahar, Afghanistan's second largest city, Khurshid also called on Karzai.
In his speech, Khurshid extended India's support to the Afghan government's efforts to establish a genuine "Afghan-owned, Afghan-led and Afghan-controlled reconciliation process".