India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani discussed on Wednesday ways to boost strategic partnership between the two nations. External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in a tweet, “Boosting strategic partnership with a special friend, EAM @SushmaSwaraj calls on Afghanistan President @ashrafghani.” Swaraj visited Ghani at his hotel for the meeting. The meeting follows a visit to Delhi by Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani earlier this month.
At that meeting, both countries had agreed to promote a new development partnership and undertake 116 projects in Afghanistan. Rabbani, according to media reports, asked India to expedite the construciton of the Chhabahar port it is building in Iran to provide landlocked Afghanistan an outlet to the world using the Indian-built Delaram-Zaranj highway to the Iran border. He also asked India to expand expand the air corridor established earlier this year between the two countries.
Rabbani’s visit came after US President Donald Trump asked India “to help us more with Afghanistan”. In an address to the nation in August laying out his new policy for Afghanistan, where the US has been bogged down in a 16-year war, Trump said that a “critical part of the South Asia strategy for America is to further develop its strategic partnership with India — the world’s largest democracy and a key security and economic partner of the US.”
Since 2001, India has pledged aid worth $3.1 billion to Afghanistan. Among projects to be undertaken are the Shatoot dam, water supply for Kabul and Charikar, and housing for returning refugees. A show-case project is the parliament built by India and another is building major highways, both built in the face of Taliban attacks. India has also given Afghanistan military helicopters — and General John Nicholson, the US commander in Afghanistan, has said that country could do with more of them and other military supplies.