President Pranab Mukherjee lauded the relations between India and Afghanistan underlining that the engagement between two sovereign nations has neither an expiry date nor a timeline. The President further added that the relations between the two countries go beyond political and strategic considerations.
The President was addressing the guests at the banquet he hosted in the honour of visiting Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani. He also emphasised that India is Afghanistan’s ‘first strategic partner’.
“Our engagement with Afghanistan… has neither an expiry date nor a timeline. As a friend and neighbour, India will always stand firmly beside Afghanistan,” the President said.
“We remain deeply conscious that Afghanistan’s unity, independence, security and stability are critical not only for itself but also for India and for peace and progress in our entire neighbourhood,” he added.
Terming the visit of Afghan premier Ghani as “special”, President Mukherjee said this time, he is visiting India as a leader of the National Unity Government in Afghanistan, as President of a proud nation with whom India has a cherished history of profound cultural, religious and civilizational bonds.
President Mukherjee also said India is happy that bilateral cooperation, rooted in the age-old bonds of friendship between the two peoples, has been so constructive and fruitful. He also emphasised that because of this historical reality, there has been strong and sustained support in India for our engagement with Afghanistan in its post-conflict economic reconstruction effort.
Reciprocating the same feelings, Afghan premier too emphasised that the relations between two nations go a long way back in the history of time.
Quoting Premier Ghani, Press Secretary to President Mukherjee Venu Rajamony in a press statement said, “For many Afghans who grew up in the 1950s, India was not the country that was ‘over there’. It was part and parcel of how they learned their values, sense of history and commitment to building a free and just nation.”
“For the children of 1950s Afghanistan, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru were not just distant figures. They were inspiring writers whose texts gave a generation of Afghans their understanding of the oppressive nature of British colonialism, of India’s noble quest for freedom, and the profound commitment to justice that inspired that heroic generation of leaders,” Ghani’s statement read.
Afghanistan also thanked India for its assistance and for the promise of future cooperation that will “help Afghanistan achieve self-reliance”.
President Ghani also said despite difficulties, Afghanistan can be a critical partner for India for the project of building an integrated Asian powerhouse that is to come. “Afghanistan is not just metaphorically but literally located in the heart of Asia,” the statement said.