External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday said India is ready to do “whatever is possible” to work with the Afghan government, a signal to Kabul that New Delhi was ready to strengthen the defence and security partnership.
Swaraj, who was on her first visit to Afghanistan, met Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday. The meeting took place in the backdrop of the US-led NATO troops withdrawing from the country, and its two presidential candidates — Abdul Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah — locked in a tight race.
Addressing Afghan government officials at a function, she said, “This is a critical decade of transformation for Afghanistan. India will always be Afghanistan’s first strategic partner. And we will always share the Afghan people’s vision of a strong, independent, united and prosperous Afghanistan for which so many Afghans sacrificed so much.”
“India is prepared to do whatever is possible, within our capacities and our means, to work with the Afghan government and its peoples to realise this great vision,” the External Affairs Minister added.
Swaraj also inaugurated a new USD 40 million Indian Embassy building in the heart of Kabul, featuring an integrated security system.
During her meeting with Karzai, Swaraj is learnt to have conveyed that India will remain engaged in the country’s reconstruction activities. India has invested USD 2 billion in aid and reconstruction and trained scores of Afghan officers. Sources said the political situation was also discussed and Swaraj said India would speed up development projects in Afghanistan. The External Affairs minister also announced India’s contribution of US$ 1 million for plan to develop a National Flag Monument site into a public area.
With NATO forces set to withdraw from the country, Afghanistan has been pressing India for military hardware and weapons. Sources said the Afghan side conveyed to India its security needs.
Swaraj’s visit also assumes significance as it comes amid rising fears of the reemergence of the Taliban and other al-Qaeda linked elements in the country following withdrawal of NATO forces by end of the year.
Afghanistan witnessed the second round of the presidential election on June 14, results of which may be announced in the next few days.