Indian leader to visit Kabul with new aid package

AP News
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Posted: May 11, 2011 10:58 AM
Indian leader to visit Kabul with new aid package

India's prime minister said Wednesday that he is heading to Afghanistan to reassert New Delhi's commitment to help stabilize the war-torn country.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's trip comes as the U.S. faces increasing pressure to withdraw troops following the killing of Osama bin Laden, leaving Afghanistan more reliant on the help of regional allies.

"My visit to Afghanistan is in keeping with the healthy tradition of regular high-level exchanges," Singh said. "We are people of the same region. We cannot remain unaffected by developments in Afghanistan."

Singh will travel to Kabul in the next few days for talks with President Hamid Karzai on regional stability, counterterrorism and the India-Afghanistan strategic partnership.

The dates of the visit were not made public because of heightened security concerns since bin Laden's killing in Pakistan.

India and Afghanistan's government share a mutual distrust of Pakistan, making them likely allies. Karzai had long maintained that the search for bin Laden should be conducted in Pakistan, not Afghanistan. India accuses Pakistan of harboring and nurturing terrorists who have carried out attacks in India.

The U.S. plans to start withdrawing troops in July and hand over responsibility for the country's security to Afghan forces. NATO aims to pull out all its troops by 2014. The Obama administration has been facing increasing domestic pressure since bin Laden's death to pull U.S. forces out of Afghanistan.

Singh, who will be accompanied by senior ministers and officials, will announce a new multimillion-dollar aid package during the two-day visit, a government official said.

India has spent $1.5 billion in Afghanistan to help build highways, hospitals and the electricity grid. It has also helped the Afghan government rebuild its police forces, judiciary and diplomatic services.

"India's commitment to assisting the people of Afghanistan is enduring," Singh said in his statement.

Singh last visited Afghanistan in 2005, but Karzai has been a frequent visitor to India. The Afghan president, who earned his college degree in India, has visited New Delhi a half dozen times in the past few years, most recently in February.