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Afghan President in India for Regional Cooperation Talks


Afghan President Hamid Karzai has met top Indian leaders in New Delhi to boost bilateral and economic ties. The Afghan leader is on a three-day visit to India.

The talks between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi on Thursday focused on ways in which India could assist Afghanistan's reconstruction.

Indian foreign ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna says the two countries discussed how to spend aid pledged by New Delhi to Kabul.

"There were very wide-ranging discussions," Mr. Sarna says. "They discussed details of the $400 million commitment India has made, which has been highly appreciated."

India has been helping to build Afghanistan's infrastructure since the Taleban regime was overthrown in 2001. It has built roads, dams, hospitals, educational institutions, and helped train medical staff and bureaucrats.

On Thursday, two more agreements were signed. New Delhi will provide technical assistance to upgrade Afghanistan's civil aviation infrastructure and establish satellite up-linking facilities to expand television coverage in the country.

Links between the two countries will also be boosted with the introduction of air services by India's state-run airline between New Delhi and Kabul on March 27.

President Karzai and Prime Minister Singh also held talks on opening a more direct trade route between India and Afghanistan via Pakistan. Currently Indian goods are sent to Afghanistan via Iran - a longer route. But with relations between New Delhi and Islamabad improving, both countries are hoping Pakistan will grant transit rights for Indian goods.

Afghanistan is also urging India to go ahead with a gas pipeline project that will run from Iran to India via Afghanistan and Pakistan. Kabul stands to earn millions of dollars in transit revenues from the project.

Countries in the region believe the project will help promote peace and stability in South Asia.

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