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Karzai to Visit India for Security Cooperation Talks

President Hamid Karzai

KABUL – President Hamid Karzai is due to visit New Delhi next week for security cooperation talks with Indian leaders, an Afghan diplomat was quoted as saying on Friday. During his three-day trip from May 20-22, Karzai would hold wide-ranging discussions with Indian leaders, Afghan Ambassador Shaida M. Abadali told reporters in Delhi.

The Indo-Asian News Service reported the Afghan president was likely to confer with his hosts on the security situation in his country, as US troops prepare to withdraw and seek more military cooperation to tackle terrorist groups. According to the ambassador, Karzai will meet President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on a range of issues of mutual interest.

He will be the chief guest at a convocation in of a Punjab university. He will receive an honorary degree from President Mukherjee. India could play a leading role in regional peace and economic development, believed the ambassador, who made a strong pitch for enhanced defence cooperation between the two countries. Abdali said: “Training is most welcome. Other assistance in small stages is most welcome…but we would like to go beyond the current trend of cooperation between the two countries in the defence sector.”

Karzai and Singh are expected to discuss the change in political leadership in Pakistan, according to the Times of India newspaper. The visiting president is also likely to brief Singh on his recent meeting with the Pakistan Army chief in Brussels. The daily quoted unnamed sources as saying that India would voice its reservations about some of the recent peace initiatives that had sought to engage the Afghan Taliban and put Pakistan in the driver’s seat in the reconciliation process.

The so-called initiatives include Pakistan-facilitated talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government in Paris and a meeting between Karzai and President Asif Ali Zardari at Chequers. During Karzai’s visit to Delhi in 2011, the two countries had signed a strategic partnership pact, in which India held out a long-term commitment to development, peace and security in Afghanistan.

Earlier in the week, US Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns visited New Delhi for talks on regional issues, including mutual goals of greater cooperation in the Asia Pacific region and in Afghanistan. In recent years, the US has been urging India to play a leading role in fostering regional economic integration and spurring private sector investment. (PAN)

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