India and Afghanistan Monday pledged to further strengthen strategic cooperation as National Security Adviser Ajit Doval met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and the top brass of the country’s military establishment in Kabul.
“It was agreed to further strengthen strategic dialogue and consultations for achieving shared objectives,” an official statement here said.
Though there was no elaboration of the shared objectives, both sides were believed to have deliberated on challenges of terrorism emanating from Pakistan, ways to deepen bilateral defence and security ties and the fragile reconciliation process in the war-ravaged country.
Doval, who is visiting Afghanistan, held wide-ranging talks with his counterpart Hanif Atmar during which both sides exchanged views on various facets of the bilateral strategic partnership and regional and global issues of mutual interest.
“They emphasised that bilateral and sincere regional cooperation is important for peace, security and stability in the region. Both sides welcomed the opportunities created by the new US strategy for bringing peace and security in Afghanistan,” the statement added.
Atmar hosted a working lunch for Doval where the Minister of Defence, Minister of Interior, Chief of Army Staff and senior officials of the National Security Council were also present.
Doval extended an invitation on behalf of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to President Ghani to visit India and the invitation was accepted, the statement said.
Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah had visited India last month during which combating terrorism was one of the major focus areas of the talks he had with Indian leaders as both sides emphasised the need to dismantle terror safe havens in the region.
Defence and security ties between India and Afghanistan have been on an upswing.
India has given four military helicopters to Afghanistan which has been trying to strengthen its air power following a significant cut in NATO forces there. The last of the four Mi 24 attack choppers was given in November last year.
Afghanistan has also been seeking India’s assistance in making functional Soviet-era helicopters and transport aircraft which were not in a flying condition.
Last month, India had announced taking up 116 new developmental projects in 31 provinces of Afghanistan, weeks after US President Donald Trump sought New Delhi’s help in the economic development of that country.
India has been playing a key role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan and given it assistance worth USD 2 billion in the last few years.
(With input from PTI).