Afghan president to visit next week

Karzai’s visit significant as India is to pay $100m to upgrade Chabahar port in Iran

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi | Published: May 16, 2013 1:25:16 am

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai is scheduled to visit India next week at a short notice,sources told The Indian Express.

An official announcement is likely to be made on Thursday by the Afghanistan embassy in Delhi. The South Block is working overtime to schedule the visit anytime between May 21 and 24. The visit gains significance as India has just confirmed its participation in the five-stage upgradation of the Chabahar port in Iran,an access point to Afghanistan.

Last week,when External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid went to Tehran,India had committed $100 million for the Chabahar port.

From the port,goods can move through the Milak bridge bordering Iran and Afghanistan,onwards to the Delaram-Zaranj highway ,which has also been built by India,in Afghanistan,which connects to the Kandahar-Herat highway.

India,Afghanistan and Iran have entered into agreements that ensure lower tariffs and smooth passage for Indian goods through Chabahar. Pakistan does not allow movement of Indian goods through its territory.

Chabahar provides the closest alternative for Indian goods to access Afghanistan and Central Asia.

While access to Afghanistan will be a major point of discussion,Karzai’s visit comes close on the heels of Nawaz Sharif winning Pakistan elections.The visit also comes a year after New Delhi and Kabul signed the Strategic Partnership Agreement.

The meeting of the Partnership Council,led by the foreign ministers,had met last May.

Karzai last came to India was in November 2012 and India has assured training and equipping Afghan security forces. This will also be one of the agenda on the table between the two sides.

India will also be keen to be briefed about his recent trilateral conversation with Pakistan and the United Kingdom,in which Pakistan Army chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and British Prime Minister David Cameron had taken part. This is important since India is concerned about blurring of the “redlines” in the reconciliation process with Taliban.

Kabul had welcomed the steps taken towards the promotion of business links between Afghanistan and India,and were supportive of Indian efforts at encouraging investment in Afghanistan through the Delhi Investment Summit on Afghanistan,held in Delhi on June 28,2012.

The visit will be another opportunity to press for the Indian role in the Afghan economy,including the participation in the iron ore mining project.

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