Afghanistan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, who is on a three-day visit to India, met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in Delhi.
Rabbani and Sushma co-chaired the Indo-Afghan strategic partnership council meeting, where the two sides discussed key bilateral and regional issues. Both foreign ministers also discussed the security situation in Afghanistan and Indian assistance in various areas such as development and capacity-building.
India and Afghanistan signed four agreements including a motor vehicles agreement and a fresh document on India’s development assistance.
“We jointly agreed to embark on a New Development Partnership in keeping with the priorities of Afghanistan..116 new High Impact Development Projects would be jointly implemented that would bring socio-economic and infrastructure development,” Swaraj said at joint press briefing after the meeting.
Asserting that its relationship with Afghanistan is an “article of faith” for India, Swaraj said the two countries remain united in overcoming the challenges posed by cross-border terrorism and safe havens and sanctuaries.
“India has further agreed to provide assistance to Afghan national defence forces,” Rabbani said.
Afghanistan has long been pressing for greater Indian assistance in defence supplies and capacity building.
The Afghan leader also noted that India and Afghanistan were victims of terrorism and violent extremism.
Sushma Swaraj reiterated that India was committed to ensuring peace and safety in Afghanistan. The two countries also discussed measures for enhancing trade and investment cooperation, she said.
This was the first high-level meeting between India and Afghanistan after US President Donald Trump unveiled his Afghan strategy where he envisages greater Indian role.
Ahead of the visit, the Afghan media reported that during his meetings with the Indian leadership, the minister is expected to renew Afghanistan’s demand for greater Indian involvement in the war-ravaged nation.
India already has an extensive, USD 2 billion cooperation programme with Afghanistan and has supported road-building and the establishment of hospitals. It also trains Afghan police and army officers at military colleges in India.
India’s programmes cover four broad areas – infrastructure projects, humanitarian assistance, small and community-based development projects, and education and capacity development.
India has also given four military helicopters to Afghanistan which has been trying to strengthen its air power following significant cut in NATO forces. The last of the four Mi 24 attack choppers was given in November 2016.
Afghanistan has also been seeking India’s assistance in making functional Soviet-era helicopters and transport aircraft which were not in flying condition.
(With inputs from PTI)