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Swaraj to visit Afghanistan on Wednesday

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As Afghanistan eagerly waits result of the presidential polls, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will visit the strategically important ally on Wednesday to further enhance ties and review key projects being implemented by India in the trouble-torn country.

In her first visit to the country as External Affairs Minister, Swaraj will hold talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on number of crucial bilateral and regional issues which may include enhancing defence and security assistance from India.

Afghanistan has been pressing India for supplying military hardware as countdown for withdrawal of NATO forces nears. Karzai has already given a “wish-list” to India.

Asked whether NDA government will review policy towards Afghanistan, Swaraj said there was no question of any change in it and asserted that India will continue to help the country in its reconstruction.

Resolving to continue India’s engagement in Afghanistan, Swaraj said India will extend cooperation to whoever becomes the President of the country.
“We had not declared anybody to be our favourite in the election. Be it Abdullah Abdullah or Ashraf Gani, we will work with whoever becomes the President.

“In Afghanistan, our people are working, risking their lives. We have an age old relationship with Afghanistan and no shortcomings will come in the way,” she said.

Former Foreign Ministers Abdullah Abdullah and former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani were in the Presidential race. A review of the electoral process has just been completed and results of the polls are likely to be announced soon.

India has invested USD two billion in aid and reconstruction and trained scores of Afghan officers, but has so far stopped short of arms transfers for fear of provoking Pakistan as well as armed groups in Afghanistan.

The issue of Afghanistan refusing to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the US is also likely to figure in talks between Swaraj and Karzai.

Karzai has refused to ink the proposed Afghan-US security pact demanding that the US must put an immediate end to military raids on Afghan homes and demonstrate its commitment to peace talks before he would sign the agreement.

The BSA will pave the way for stay of certain number of US troops in Afghanistan even after the withdrawal of foreign forces by end of this year.

One of India’s important infrastructure projects in South-Western Afghanistan is the highway from Zaranj to Delaram which is considered a symbol of India’s commitment to reconstruction of the country.

India is also constructing the Afghan Parliament building.

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