Indian premier to visit Kabul offering more aid

AP News
Posted: May 11, 2011 2:26 AM
Indian premier to visit Kabul offering more aid

India's prime minister is heading to Afghanistan to reassert New Delhi's commitment to help stabilize the war-torn country, a top government official said Wednesday.

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.

Singh will visit Kabul in the next few days for talks with President Hamid Karzai on regional stability, the official said.

"The talks will review security issues in the region and how the two sides can consolidate their strategic partnership," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the visit.

The dates for Singh's visit are not being made public due to 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, and not Afghanistan. India openly 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, the official said.

India has become a key Karzai ally since the fall of the Taliban regime, spending more than $1.3 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.

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.