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Senior Afghan Official Visits India


A senior official of Afghanistan's newly-named interim government is visiting India. India has long been a supporter of the Northern Alliance which is playing a leading role in the new administration.

The new Afghan interior minister, Younus Qanooni says he has held "crucial, friendly and candid" discussions with senior officials in New Delhi, including foreign minister Jaswant Singh and Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani.

Mr. Qanooni is the first Afghan leader to visit India since an agreement was reached in Bonn to set up a transitional authority in Kabul. He came to establish contact with the Indian government, and to see his family which has been living in New Delhi since fleeing Afghanistan after the Taleban took power in 1996.

Mr. Qanooni told reporters in New Delhi that the new Afghan interim administration is willing to give amnesty to ordinary Taleban members, but "their big leaders will have to face trial."

The Afghan official spoke of strengthening relations between Afghanistan and India, saying it is important for the two countries to cooperate to restore stability to the region. He blamed Pakistan for helping the Taleban's rise to power.

While Pakistan backed the Taleban, India remained a strong supporter of the Northern Alliance, reportedly providing help including weapons.

A foreign policy expert at the independent Center for Policy Research, Brahama Chellaney, says India is anxious to restore its traditional, friendly relations with Afghanistan. During the Taleban rule, New Delhi had said militants from terrorist training camps in Afghanistan were fueling a Muslim separatist uprising in Jammu and Kashmir. Mr. Chellaney says India hopes that will end. "The important role that the Northern Alliance is playing and will continue to play will ensure that the political set up in Kabul will be quite India-friendly. India can feel content that Afghanistan will no longer be a base for terrorist operations against India," he says.

Mr. Qanooni also discussed the reconstruction of his country with Indian leaders. India is hoping to play a leading role in this massive task, and has urged the international community to help rebuild the war-ravaged nation.

New Delhi has already pledged $100 million in aid for Afghanistan's reconstruction. It has also sent wheat and medical personnel to help the Afghan people.

The visiting Afghan official has also sought India's assistance in rebuilding Afghanistan's police and internal security apparatus, which, like much else in the country, lies in tatters.

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