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Red carpet for Karzai in India

New Delhi: Chairman of Afghanistan’s interim council, Hameed Karzai, arrived here today, his first formal visit to India since assuming office on 22 December. While several senior Afghan ministers of the new interim council have already visited India, this is Karzai’s first visit here. The main purpose of the visit is to thank the Indian government for its consistent opposition of the Taliban regime in his country.

Karzai is heading a 20-member delegation which includes eight ministers in his administration. During this two-day visit Karzai will seek greater participation in rehabilitation and reconstruction as well as in training police and military personnel for ensuring peace and stability in his country. Among the ministers accompanying Mr Karzai are Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, Information Minister and the Minister incharge of Rehabilitation and Reconstruction. 

Singnificantly Mr Karzai will also meet top Indian industrialists and businessmen during a meeting with commence and industry leaders.

New Delhi opened a diplomatic liaison office in Kabul on November 21, soon after the collapse of the Taliban regime, and pledged $100 million for reconstruction and development activities in the country. New Delhi has also sent to Kabul several medical teams and about 12 tonnes of emergency medical supplies. 

Interestingly most members of the new government have close ties with India. Karzai himself was educated in India and his family, like those of many of his ministers, still lives in Delhi.

Karzai's visit assumes significance in view of the prominent role India has been playing in Afghanistan ever since the Taliban regime was dislodged by the US-led coalition. India had all-along maintained cordial relations with the Northern Alliance (NA). It is said that New Delhi was instrumental in inducing the NA to advance to Kabul in disregard of American wishes during the war.

Mr Karzai, who has already announced that strengthening ties with India would be one of his administration's priorities, would meet President K R Narayanan, Vice-President Krishan Kant, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh and Leader of the Opposition, Sonia Gandhi.

Hamid Karzai will devote the second day of his visit to meet British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw who will reach New Delhi tomorrow. He is expected to discuss with Sraw the role of the British peace keepers and steps taken by his regime to ensure peace and tranquility in the troubled country. They are also expected to discuss measures that are underway to arrest Taliban and Al-Qaeda actvists who have so far evaded arrest.

Karzai, who has been given the special honour of staying at the Presidential Palace, will leave India for France late Wednesday. 

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