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Afghanistan, India set to further strengthen ties

in Afghan Business

Afghanistan, India set to further strengthen ties

President Ashraf Ghani paid a state visit to India from 27-29 April and met with President Pranab MukherJee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and senior members of the Indian Cabinet.

This was the first visit of President Ghani to India after assuming the Presidency in September 2014, which continues the tradition of regular high-level exchanges between the two countries that has been established since 2002.

President Ghani’s program in India also included an address to India’s strategic community at the historical Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) and a meeting with members of India’s leading Chambers of Commerce.

The two parties held extensive discussions that covered a review of bilateral cooperation activities and the international regional security environment confronting both countries. Recalling that the age old historic, cultural and geographical links between India and Afghanistan continue to underpin the present contacts and connection between our two peoples, the leaders acknowledged that these links have today provided the solid foundation for the India-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership that is in turn forged on the two countries’ common perception of challenges and shared interests.

Both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to patiently and systematically work towards strengthening of the India Afghanistan Strategic Partnership, with a clear focus on the long term relationship between the two countries. The two leaders reviewed the progress made so far in the implementation of all areas of cooperation envisaged under the strategic partnership agreement, and reaffirmed their commitment to the full implementation of the strategic partnership objectives through its established implementation mechanism of partnership council and its related technical working groups. The Prime Minister assured the President of Afghanistan of India’s abiding support for Afghanistan’s ongoing crucial transitions-political, economic and security, for the decade of 2015-24 and beyond.

President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani reiterated Afghanistan’s perspective on the foundational nature of Afghanistan’s ties with India, and the fact that India figured in four of the five ‘circles’ of Afghanistan’s foreign policy priorities. The two sides reaffirmed their commitment to each other’s unity, integrity and sovereignty, while agreeing that their territories will not be allowed to be used against any other country.

Noting that there is no justification for acts of terrorism, the leaders expressed determination to work together, along with the international community, to combat and defeat the scourge of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. They called on the international community to severely deal with the safe havens for terrorists that continue to threaten regional and global security. In this context the two leaders also welcomed the recent decision of the US President to extend the draw-down of US troops till the end of 2016.

Acknowledging the generous contribution of the international community, both sides recognized that it was critical that such commitment from the international community continues while the National Unity Government takes steps towards financial sustainability.

Prime Minister and President Ghani discussed the efforts undertaken by President Ghani to launch an Afghan-led and Afghan owned reconciliation process within the framework of the Afghan constitution and the internationally accepted red lines. President Ghani strongly affirmed that the hard won political, social and economic gains over the last 14 years, protection of basic human rights of Afghan citizens, especially women and children, Afghanistan’s unity, plurality and sovereignty, can never be diluted in any effort to promote the reconciliation process.

Afghanistan’s unique geographical location makes it a natural land bridge to connect people and markets of Central Asia to the rapidly growing regions in South Asia. The two leaders noted that for Afghanistan to fully realize its economic potential as a trading and natural resource hub for the wider region, it was important for all neighboring countries to cooperate with Afghanistan to facilitate transit by implementing existing transit agreements, establishing new transit arrangements and developing all the requisite infrastructure. In this context, President Ghani welcomed the steps taken by India to promote business links and trade between the two countries and India’s decision as a fourth party to join the recent PATTTA (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan Trade and Transit Agreement) negotiations that would allow the arrangement to contribute in a meaningful manner to the vision of wider regional economic integration. Afghanistan also welcomed the Indian stewardship of the Trade, Commerce and Investment Confidence Building Measures (TCI-CBM) under the Afghan-led Heart of Asia process whose activities remain focused on showcasing Afghanistan’s potential and its unique location at the ‘Heart of Asia’.
To facilitate greater business and commercial ties between the two countries, the two leaders agreed to work towards a more liberalized business visa regime for all businesses, including large, medium and small-size enterprises. The Afghan side also requested India to further liberalize the registration and immigration procedures for citizens of Afghanistan, including tourists, students, refugees and those who remain out of status in India.

The two leaders also pledged to work closely with the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to make Chahbahar port a reality, and a viable gateway to Afghanistan and Central Asia. They agreed that routes additional to existing ones will provide a major impetus to Afghanistan’s economic reconstruction efforts.
The leaders expressed satisfaction at the nature and scope of India’s assistance to Afghanistan and recognized that, among others, the new Afghan Parliament will stand as a testimony to the friendship between our two democracies and nations.
President Ghani also welcomed India’s decisions to provide support to the Habibia School, located in Kabul over the next 10 years, contribution to the Afghan Red Crescent Society’s program to treat Child Congenital Heart disease (CHD disease) over the next 5 years, and support a program of the ‘Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health (IGICH) in Kabul over the next 5 years.
Recognizing the special role that India is playing in Afghanistan’s reconstruction efforts through its capacity building programs, President Ghani welcomed India’s decision to extend the 1000 scholarships per year scheme by another 5 years (till the academic year 2021-22). The two sides agreed to increase the number of scholarships for such technical fields as medicine, nursing, engineering, mining, as well as technical, vocational training and skills development. In response to Afghanistan’s numerous state capacity building needs, the Indian side offered to expand its technical assistance programs through provision of short- and long-term training courses, including degree programs, for the Afghan civil servants. Furthermore, given India’s expertise and experience in disaster management, the Afghan side requested India’s cooperation in strengthening Afghanistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).

The two leaders agreed to work together for their shared goal of bringing reforms to the UN system and PM Modi thanked President Ghani for Afghanistan supporting and co-sponsoring the G-4 resolution on UN reforms, including the expansion of the UN Security Council in the 70th year of the UN.

President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani expressed his thanks for the gifting of three multi-role Cheetal helicopters from India in April 2015.

The two sides recalling their common rich cultural and historical legacy, where many faiths have peacefully co-existed over centuries, agreed to undertake joint programs to safeguard and preserve cultural and religious symbols of Afghanistan’s rich history, including Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist religious and archaeological sites.
While underlining the strength of their bilateral relations, the leaders acknowledged that peace, prosperity and security in the region was indivisible, and their mutually respectful relations are not at expense of other nations or group of nations.

The two leaders agreed to sign the following documents within three months of the visit:

• Extradition Treaty between India and Afghanistan
• Agreement on Transfer of Sentenced Persons between India and Afghanistan
• Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) in Criminal Matters
• Bilateral Treaty for Mutual Legal Assistance in Civil and Commercial Matters between India and Afghanistan
• Motor Vehicles Agreement For The Regulation Of Passenger, Personal And Cargo Vehicular Traffic Between India and Afghanistan.
• MOU on Visa free entry for holders of diplomatic passports.

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