New Delhi(PTI): India on Tuesday offered assistance to war-ravaged Afghanistan in diverse sectors including defence as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani held extensive talks during which both leaders stressed the need for concrete action to dismantle terror networks.
According to sources, Indian side told the Afghan delegation that Afghanistan should "let their defence requirements be known" to India. Significantly, Ghani's predecessor Hamid Karzai was strongly pushing for supply of military hardware by India to enhance Afghan defence capability. In the meeting, Modi and Ghani, who is here on his first visit after assuming office in September last, discussed host of key issues including connectivity and security, with the Prime Minister making a strong pitch for a positive and constructive approach from neighbours of Afghanistan including to end support for violence.
Asserting that Indo-Afghan partnership has blossomed despite barriers of geography and hurdles of politics, Modi said the success of an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process within the framework of the Constitution of Afghanistan, without the shadow of violence was in their shared interest. After the comprehensive talks with Ghani on entire gamut of bilateral ties as well as on key regional and international issues, Modi, at a joint press event with the visiting leader, said he conveyed India's support for his vision for peace and stability in Afghanistan.
"We have a shared interest in the success of an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process. This should be conducted within the framework of the Constitution of Afghanistan, without the shadow of violence. "It should reinforce the political, economic and social progress of the last fourteen years. And, it should protect the rights and aspirations of all sections of the society, including Afghan women," Modi said.
The Afghan President identified terror as a major challenge facing the region and said his government was determined to make Afghanistan the "graveyard of terror". Without naming Pakistan, which has been accused by the previous Afghan government of supporting violence in Afghanistan, Modi said, "Its (process) success requires a positive and constructive approach from neighbours, including an end to support for violence."
Noting that India deeply values its friendship and goodwill with Afghanistan, the Prime Minister said the country stands with the people of Afghanistan as they build a united, stable, democratic and prosperous nation.
"This comes from the responsibility of our friendship. It also stems from our commitment to regional peace and progress.... And, it will not be limited to the period of transition or the decade of transformation. This is an enduring commitment," Modi added.
On his part, Ghani, who has visited China and Pakistan before coming here and has pro-Islamabad approach, appreciated India's contribution in reconstruction efforts in his country as also massive human resource development projects for Afghan youths, sources said. India has so far contributed over USD two billion for various projects including in social sector.
"The relationship between India and Afghanistan is not just between two countries or governments. It is a timeless link of human hearts," Modi said, adding "India will walk shoulder to shoulder with you and the Afghan people in a mission of global importance." The Prime Minister also expressed his gratitude to the Afghan security forces, who protect Indians in Afghanistan as their own people.
"We share Afghanistan's pain over persisting terrorism and extremist violence that destroy lives and derail progress.
I thank him for cooperation against terrorism," Modi Ghani said peace was the main goal of his government as "the shadow of terror haunts our children, our women, our youth".
"Terror must be confronted and must be overcome.... Our will must not be underestimated and we will not be beaten to submission," Ghani said, adding terror must be "contained if the disease is to be cured". The Afghan President also said the "state systems" must "rise" to understand the challenge as "terrorism cannot be classified into good or bad".
"It can not be differentiated. We must have a unified approach. We must be united both in the region and globally to contain terror," he added.
The Afghan President also underlined the need to have a regional framework to deal with the menace.
Asserting that India was prepared to continue its support for capacity building of Afghan security forces, Modi said, "I am pleased that we have delivered three Cheetal Helicopters to Afghanistan, which will add to the growing capabilities of the valiant Afghan forces." Noting that the peaceful democratic transition last year was a great boost for Afghanistan's progress, Modi said preserving the mandate and political unity will be important for the country's future. Modi said the President shared his impressive vision for Afghanistan's prosperity, based on its talent, resources and location.
"We believe that Afghanistan's direct surface link to India and the rest of South Asia and increased connectivity to sea could turn Afghanistan into a hub that connects Asia's diverse regions and beyond. "We are ready to welcome Afghan trucks at the ICP Attari.
We are also prepared to join the successor agreement to Afghan Pakistan Trade and Transit Agreement. This will re-establish one of the oldest trading routes of South Asia. I also reaffirmed my commitment to take the Chahbahar Port project in Iran forward. We will also quickly conclude a bilateral Motor Vehicles Agreement," the Prime Minister said.
India will expand its development partnership, which includes infrastructure, agriculture, connectivity, human resource development, community projects and humanitarian assistance, the Prime Minister said, adding it will explore new trade and investment opportunities. "Afghan children have a special focus in our efforts. Today, I conveyed fresh support for Habibia School in Kabul, the Indira Gandhi Child Health Care Hospital and Red Crescent Society Fund for treatment of children with congenital heart disease," he added.
Official sources said enhancing connectivity was a major focus area of the Afghan side.
Talking about Afghanistan's transition, Ghani said "Our political statecraft has shown that divisions of the past are not going to be the confining limitation of Afghan imagination. The formation of government of national unity is a tribute to desire of the people for unity." On SAARC, he said the region must be made economically vibrant and improving connectivity would ensure greater movement of goods and services.
"We very much welcome your (India's) emphasis on bilateral and multilateral transit and transport agreement," he said.