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India backs Afghan aims to reconcile with Taliban

 Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, center, greets Afghan high ranking officials, as Afghan President Hamid Karzai is seen behind him, at the presi...
 Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, left, speaks to the media, as Afghan President Hamid Karzai listens to him at the presidential palace in Kabul,...
 Afghan President Hamid Karzai, second right, speaks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after inspecting the guards of honor at the presidentia...

Afghanistan India

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, center, greets Afghan high ranking officials, as Afghan President Hamid Karzai is seen behind him, at the presi...

Afghanistan India

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, left, speaks to the media, as Afghan President Hamid Karzai listens to him at the presidential palace in Kabul,...

Afghanistan India

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, second right, speaks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after inspecting the guards of honor at the presidentia...

India's prime minister told Afghanistan's president Thursday that he strongly supports the country's effort to reconcile with the Taliban insurgency and said Afghanistan can depend on India's backing in rebuilding its fractured society.
Manmohan Singh's two-day visit signaled new shifts in the regional power play between nuclear rivals India and Pakistan, in which Afghanistan has often been caught in the middle. With Pakistan's international stature taking a hit after the U.S. raid the killed Osama bin Laden, India may see an opportunity to pull Afghanistan closer to its side _ further pressuring Islamabad.
In his first visit to Afghanistan in six years, Singh held talks with President Hamid Karzai about regional stability, counterterrorism and the India-Afghanistan strategic partnership, built largely on a shared mistrust of Pakistan.
"India is your neighbor and partner in development," Singh told a gathering including President Karzai and other senior officials in Kabul. "You can count on us as you build your society, economy and polity."
Pakistan, which supported the Taliban's rise to ensure it had a friendly government on its western border, has deeper ethnic and cultural ties with Afghanistan. Pakistan has long bristled at the post-Taliban government's friendly terms with its major rival, which supports Karzai's administration with aid money.
India blamed Pakistan's spy agency for a 2008 attack on its embassy in Kabul. That attack and another on the diplomatic mission a year later killed scores.
Last year, militants attacked two residential hotels in Kabul that were popular among Indians, killing at least six Indians.
India has blamed later attacks on a Pakistan-based militant group called Lashkar-e-Taiba, the same group believed to have orchestrated the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks.
In a further indication that India sees a chance to press Pakistan, its government came out with a list of 50 most wanted fugitives who it says are hiding in Pakistan.
Afghanistan is likely to become more reliant on these warring regional allies as its NATO partners face pressure to withdraw troops. The U.S. plans to start decreasing forces in July, and all NATO partners are committed to handing over responsibility for security to Afghan forces by 2014. And Bin Laden's death has some in NATO countries pushing for even quicker drawdowns.
Karzai has argued that the best solution to Afghanistan's long-running war against the Taliban insurgency is to convince the militants to reconcile with the government _ a stance that has also gained more traction with the U.S. and other international allies in recent years.
Singh applauded this effort in his speech.
"We strongly support the Afghan people's quest for peace and reconciliation," Singh said. "India supports the unity, integrity and prosperity and Afghanistan."
Many both inside Afghanistan and abroad have said they hope bin Laden's death will make the Taliban more likely to sever its ties with al-Qaida _ a precondition for any negotiations that was set by the Afghan government.
Singh was expected to announce a new multimillion-dollar aid package during the visit, according to Indian officials.
India has spent $1.5 billion in Afghanistan to help build highways, hospitals and the electricity grid. It has also helped the Afghan government rebuild its police forces, judiciary and diplomatic services.
Singh last visited Afghanistan in 2005, but Karzai has been a frequent visitor to India. The Afghan president, who earned his college degree in India, has visited New Delhi a half dozen times in the past few years, most recently in February.
NATO forces, meanwhile, apologized for the mistaken killing of a young girl and a man who turned out to be a police officer in an overnight raid in eastern Afghanistan.
A combined NATO-Afghan force was pursuing a Taliban leader in Nangarhar province's Surkh Rod district on Wednesday when a man came out of the targeted house threatening them with a gun, NATO said in a statement.
The troops killed the man and then discovered he was a police officer, the statement said. The troops also shot at someone running out of the back of the compound who they believed had a weapon. The soldiers later realized there was no weapon and that they had killed "an unarmed Afghan female adolescent."
A neighbor, who goes by the name of Ayatullah, said the girl was 12 years old.
"We are deeply sorry for this tragedy and apologize to the members of the Afghan government, the people of Afghanistan and most importantly, the surviving family members of those killed by our actions," NATO forces spokesman Rear Adm. Hal Pittman said in the statement.


Updated : 2021-10-21 11:23 GMT+08:00