India will always stand firmly beside Afghanistan: President Mukherjee
He also hosted a banquet in his honour.
Welcoming President Ghani on his first state visit to India as the President of Afghanistan, President Mukherjee conveyed his condolences over the tragic death of 52 persons in a land slide in the Badakhshan Province earlier in the day.
He said India was proud of its close relations with Afghanistan. It was Afghanistan’s first strategic partner.
"India shares the Afghan President’s goal of building a strong, prosperous and independent Afghanistan. It appreciates the work he is doing and the formation of a national unity government which adds a new dimension to the process of democratic evolution in Afghanistan," Mukherjee said.
The President said India supports an Afghan led and Afghan owned national reconciliation process within the framework of the Afghan constitution.
"India-Afghanistan co-operation has neither an expiry date nor a timeline. As a friend and neighbour, India will always stand firmly beside Afghanistan. India considers it a privilege to share its capabilities and experience in nation-building and inclusive development with people of Afghanistan," he said.
Mukherjee said efforts should be made to expand bilateral trade which in 2013-14 stood at US$ 683.10 million.
72 Indian companies have invested around US$ 17 million in Afghanistan from 2003-2013. India will encourage more companies to invest in Afghanistan.
He expressed confidence that Afghan President’s visit will further strengthen the two countries successful co-operation in all spheres of shared interest.
Responding to the President Mukherjee, the Afghan President said it was a singular honour to be invited to stay in Rashtrapati Bhavan and an important recognition granted to the people of Afghanistan.
President Ghani thanked Mukherjee for his condolences and expressed sympathies for the people of Nepal dealing with the aftermath of the earthquake.
He conveyed appreciation for India’s leadership in natural disaster management and called for a regional framework for the purpose. President Ghani said Afghanistan hopes it will have a shared destiny and destination with India in Asia.
Later, in his banquet speech, President Mukherjee said although the Afghan President has travelled India in his previous capacities on a number of occasions, this is a special visit.
This time he is visiting India as leader of the National Unity Government in Afghanistan and as President of a nation with whom India has a cherished history of profound cultural, religious and civilisational bonds.
The President said India believes that the enduring trust and mutual understanding between India and Afghanistan goes beyond political and strategic considerations.
The two countries shared history and geography is a compelling factor in nurturing our close ties.
Because of this historical reality, there has been strong and sustained support in India for its engagement with Afghanistan in its post-conflict economic reconstruction effort.
India is confident that over the next few years, Afghanistan will see a significant transformation across its sectors and in all areas of its social and economic advancement.
The President said India remains deeply conscious that Afghanistan's unity, independence, security and stability are critical – not only for itself – but also for India and for peace and progress in entire neighbourhood.
To this end, the two countries strategic partnership looks to strengthen and diversify bilateral engagement in the coming years, including by forging a more robust trade and investment relationship between private sectors.
The President of Afghanistan in his banquet speech said for many Afghans who grew up in the 1950s, India was not the country that was “over there.”
It was part and parcel of how they learned their values, sense of history, and commitment to building a free and just nation.
For the children of 1950s Afghanistan, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru were not just distant figures. They were inspiring writers whose texts gave a generation of Afghans their understanding of the oppressive nature of British colonialism, of India’s noble quest for freedom, and the profound commitment to justice that inspired that heroic generation of leaders.
India has been a foundational partner for Afghanistan. Over thirteen thousand Afghan youth are studying in India. India’s incredible generosity in providing health care, training, cultural exchanges and other much appreciated help continues thousand year old history of friendship of India and Afghanistan.
Afghanistan thanks India for its assistance and for the promise of future cooperation that will help Afghanistan achieve self-reliance within a neighborhood of partners committed to the principles of democracy, development and mutual security.
President Ghani said despite difficulties, Afghanistan can be a critical partner for India for the project of building an integrated Asian powerhouse that is to come. Afghanistan is not just metaphorically but literally located in the heart of Asia.
With commitment, investment, peace, railways, pipelines, highways, fiber-optic networks and the ideas and people that will connect Central, South and West Asia to each other and with the market centers of the world can more easily flow through Afghanistan than through any other route.