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I am delighted to welcome His Excellency the President of Afghanistan, Mr. Hamid Karzai to our country.
President Karzai's visit takes place soon after my own visit to Afghanistan in May this year. This reflects the tradition of regular high level exchanges that so happily exists between our two countries.
My discussions today with President Karzai have once again underlined the importance of a strong and broad based partnership between India and Afghanistan.
Our cooperation with Afghanistan is an open book. We have civilizationallinks, and we are both here to stay. We have to live and work together in times both good and bad.
Based on intensive consultations and deliberations, we have finalized an Agreement on a Strategic Partnership between India and Afghanistan which the President and I have signed today. The Agreement creates an institutional framework for our future cooperation in the fields of political and security cooperation, trade and economic cooperation, capacity building and education, and social, cultural, civil society and people- to-people relations.
We have also concluded two Memoranda of Understanding for cooperation in the fields of Mining and Hydrocarbons. These will add a new dimension to our economic relations.
We both agree that Afghanistan's economic integration with the Indian economy and South Asia as a whole is in the national interest of the people of Afghanistan, and one of the ways to achieve this is to promote closer trade, investment and transit links.
I reiterated to the President that India stands by the people of Afghanistan in their journey towards capacity building, reconstruction, development and peace. We will do all that is within our means to help Afghanistan.
We had detailed and frank discussions on the issue of terrorism. This threatens our entire region, and no country can remain immune to its lethal effects.
I conveyed our sympathy and condolences to the Government and people of Afghanistan on the acts of terrorism that have taken place in Afghanistan recently, particularly the tragic assassination of Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani. Professor Rabbani was our guest in India in July and we were greatly encouraged by his noble vision. His brutal assassination should serve as an occasion for all of us to strengthen our resolve to jointly confront the menace of terrorism that threatens to undermine the security and stability of our region.
The people of Afghanistan have suffered enough. They deserve to live in peace and decide their future themselves, without outside interference, coercion and intimidation.
It is in this context that India will participate in the forthcoming conferences in Istanbul and Bonn to contribute to international and regional initiatives to support Afghanistan's efforts at nation building. The greatest need today is for the Afghan people to have peace and stability. All countries of the region must work to facilitate this outcome.
India will stand by the people of Afghanistan as they prepare to assume the responsibility for their governance and security after the withdrawal of international forces in 2014.
I pay tribute to the sagacious leadership of President Hamid Karzai in seeking solutions that are inclusive and led by the Afghan people themselves. He has shown great courage in very difficult circumstances.
I look forward to working with President Karzai and the Government of Afghanistan in the period ahead to further advance our relations across a wide spectrum.