PM Modi holds bilateral meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani; trade, security figure in talks

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday held a bilateral meeting here before the commencement of the Heart of Asia ministerial conference.
PM Modi, Ashraf Ghani, bilateral meeting, Afghan Source: MEA
India TV News Desk Amritsar December 04, 2016 14:13 IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani today held bilateral talks on a range of key issues before the commencement of the Heart of Asia ministerial conference.

"Beginning together before the Heart of Asia Ministerial. PM Narendra Modi and President Ashraf Ghani hold an important bilateral meeting," External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted.

A range of issues including cross-border terrorism were discussed in the meeting and the two leaders decided to strengthen counter-terror cooperation between the two countries. 

During their meeting, the two leaders agreed to operationalise the additional amount of US Dollar One Billion (Rs 6800 crore) for bilateral cooperation especially in capacity building, skill development, infrastructure building and connectivity linkages, including through a possible air corridor.

The corridor will give India a leverage in Afghanistan as Pakistan continues to deny transit link through its territory. 

The two leaders discussed several aspects of the "close and friendly" relations between the two countries, Swarup said, adding they also reviewed the progress on recent decisions to deepen bilateral economic cooperation and strengthen the strategic partnership between the two countries. 

"Both leaders exchanged views on the common threat of terrorism, especially the cross border nature of the scourge which had caused immense suffering to the people of India and Afghanistan. 

"In this context, the two leaders agreed to strengthen counter terror cooperation between the two countries, and enhance coordination at the UN and other relevant fora," he said. 

India had pulled out of SAARC Summit, to be held in Islamabad last month, citing cross-border terror strikes emanating from Pakistan. Afghanistan and other SAARC countries had also sought cancellation of the eight-nation meet on the grounds that there was incitement of terrorism in the region. 

Noting with satisfaction the prospects for bilateral relations, Modi and Ghani agreed that both countries would continue to work ever harder for further strengthening them. 

"Both leaders agreed to operationalise the additional amount of US Dollar One Billion for bilateral cooperation especially in capacity building, skill development, infrastructure building and connectivity linkages, including through a possible air corridor between India and Afghanistan to overcome obstacles to promotion of bilateral trade," Swarup said. 

Ghani, who arrived here last evening to attend the Heart of Asia - Istanbul Process conference, also recalled his visit to Golden Temple yesterday, describing it as "a moving experience". 

In the meeting, Modi assured Ghani of India's continued support for ensuring peace and stability in Afghanistan. 

Also, Afghanistan is learnt to have sought enhanced supply of military hardware from India. 

Afghanistan has been trying to revamp its military to fight the resurgent Taliban after drawdown of NATO forces began nearly two years back. 

Sources said both India and Afghanistan were keen to finalise the air cargo agreement as soon as possible and that the broad contours of the pact were already finalised. 

India and Afghanistan have been exploring various connectivity projects for greater two-way trade.

After the meeting, Ghani thanked India for its support to “improve people's life is transparent with no strings attached." 

Speaking at the inaugural function of the 6th ministerial 'Heart of Asia conference - Istanbul Process on Afghanistan', shortly after the bilateral meetings, Ghani said the expansion of the key Chabahar port between India, Iran and his country was very important for regional trade and connectivity.

In May, India, Iran and Afghanistan had signed an agreement to set up a trade and transport corridor with Chabahar in Iran as the hub. 

The sea-land route of Chabahar Port was designed to bypass Pakistan and the project was seen as India's effort to counter China's plan to develop Gwadar port in Pakistan. 

Afghanistan was very keen on deeper defence and security cooperation with India and there were indications that Ghani may press for ramping up supply of arms and military hardware from India though Pakistan would be unhappy if there was closer Indo-Afghan military cooperation. 

Last week, India had given to Afghanistan the last of the four military helicopters. 

India has trained hundreds of Afghan security personnel but has been adopting a cautious approach in providing weapons. 

Afghanistan has also been seeking India's assistance in making functional Soviet-era helicopters and transport aircraft which were not in flying condition. 

India has a strategic partnership with Afghanistan and is implementing projects worth USD 2 billion to help rebuild the country's infrastructure. 

India has been supporting an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, broad-based and inclusive process of peace and reconciliation, and advocating the need for a sustained and long-term commitment to Afghanistan by the international community.

(With PTI inputs) 

 
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