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Afghan situation in focus as President Ghani, US Secretary of State Tillerson arrive

By IANS Updated: Oct 23, 2017 10:39 pm

New Delhi, Oct. 23 (IANS): The spurt in violence in Afghanistan, including an attack on an army base in Kandahar, and redevelopment efforts in the war-torn country will find focus as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani arrives here on a daylong visit, coinciding with the arrival of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who flies in from Islamabad.
Ghani’s visit also comes close on the heels of Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval’s visit to Kabul on October 16 where he met the Afghan leadership, as a Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) meeting was on in Muscat between the US, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan to discuss revival of peace talks with the Taliban.
The visit of the Afghan President also comes as Ghani issued a directive on Sunday banning Pakistani trucks from entering his country.
The Afghan Transport Ministry said that Pakistani trucks will only be allowed up to the Afghan border crossing where they will have to offload their goods and transfer them to Afghan trucks, according to Tolo News.
Pakistani trucks were earlier allowed to cross into Afghanistan at Torkham and Spin Boldak borders and would then transport their goods through the borders to other Central Asian countries.
“The Afghanistan and Pakistan Trade Agreement (APTA) has expired. Before this Pakistan did now allow Afghan trucks to enter its territory. So we do the same and after this Pakistani trucks will be unloaded at borders and Afghan trucks will carry the goods to Hairatan and Shir Khan ports,” a transport ministry spokesman said.
Afghanistan has witnessed a bloody past week, with suicide attacks that have killed more than 150 people. Taliban suicide bombers attacked an Afghan National Army post in the southwestern province of Kandahar last week, in which 43 soldiers were killed and nine were wounded. In an attack on a Shiite mosque in Kabul 54 people were killed and 55 injured, besides other attacks.
Tillerson, arriving on his maiden visit to India, had announced last week that the US wants to dramatically deepen ties with India. The top US diplomat is on a five-nation tour that includes Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
US President Donald Trump in August had outlined Washington’s reworked strategy on Afghanistan, which included a definite role for India for stabilizing the violence-wracked country.
While India has said that it will not deploy Indian armed forces in Afghanistan, New Delhi has maintained that its redevelopment efforts in Afghanistan will continue.
In a statement, the Ministry of External Affairs said that President Ghani, during his working visit, will meet his Indian counterpart, Ram Nath Kovind and hold delegation-level talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“The visit will build upon the recent high level bilateral exchanges between the two countries, including the recent visits of Abdullah Abdullah, Chief Executive of Afghanistan on September 27-29, and that of the Foreign Minister of Afghanistan Salahuddin Rabbani on September 10-11 to India for the meeting of the bilateral Strategic Partnership Council which was co-chaired by External Affairs Minister (Sushma Swaraj),” the ministry said in a statement.
“Both sides will have the opportunity to review the entire gamut of multifaceted bilateral strategic partnership, including the New Development Partnership; hold consultations and coordinate on furthering the shared objective of promoting peace, security, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan and efforts to combat the menace of terrorism; and discuss regional and global issues of mutual interest,” it added.
During the second Strategic Partnership Council meeting on September 11, making use of the fresh $1 billion announced by Prime Minister Modi, India and Afghanistan launched a New Development Partnership.
India worked with Afghanistan to identify priorities and projects where Kabul needed New Delhi’s assistance to be directed.
India agreed to implement some important new projects such as the Shahtoot Dam and drinking water project for Kabul that would also facilitate irrigation, water supply for Charikar city, road connectivity to Band-e-Amir in Bamyan province that would promote tourism, low cost housing for returning Afghan refugees in Nangarhar province to promote their resettlement, a gypsum board manufacturing plant in Kabul to promote value-added local industry and for import substitution, and a polyclinic in Mazar-e-Sharif.
India will also take up 116 high impact community development projects in 31 provinces of Afghanistan.
These important investments will be in the areas of education, health, agriculture, irrigation, drinking water, renewable energy, flood control, micro-hydro power, sports and administrative infrastructure, according to the External Affairs Ministry.
New Delhi also announced that ongoing programmes for education, capacity building, skills and human resource development in Afghanistan, one of the largest such programmes in the world, would continue for a further period of five years from 2017 to 2022.
India is a leading development aid partner for strife-torn Afghanistan.

By IANS Updated: Oct 23, 2017 10:39:11 pm