In a unique gesture underlining India’s all-weather friendship with Afghanistan, four former envoys of New Delhi to Kabul, that included Vice-President Hamid Ansari, braved capricious weather to attend the funeral of Afghan First Vice-President Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim in Kabul this week.
Amid driving snow and inclement weather, the funeral prayer service of Fahim was attended by droves of dignitaries and mourners. Ansari paid rich tributes to “a true partner of India” and glowingly described Fahim as an “illustrious son of Afghanistan” and a towering leader of the Afghan people. The 57-year-old Fahim was a close lieutenant of charismatic Northern Alliance commander Ahmad Shah Masood, and visited India in 2011.
Ansari also held talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on a wide gamut of bilateral issues. The India-educated Afghan leader briefed the vice-president on the preparations in his country for the landmark polls April 5.
Thanking Ansari for braving snow and bad weather to attend the funeral, Mr Karzai said that this reflected the “all weather” nature of India-Afghanistan relations. He stressed that whatever the outcome of the forthcoming elections and the orientation of the new leadership, friendship with India would remain a “top priority” for any new government of Afghanistan.
Ansari, on his part, conveyed that the friendship between the people of India and Afghanistan existed much before the friendship between governments and underlined an across-the-board consensus about the continuance of good relations with Afghanistan. He stressed that India’s strong bonds of friendship with Afghanistan were a “matter of conviction, not convenience.”
India is closely watching the evolving situation in the run-up to the Afghan elections in a crucial transition year when foreign combat troops will leave Afghanistan and hand over the security of that country to the Afghan National Security Force. India has huge stakes in peace and stability of Afghanistan in the transformational decade and beyond.
Amid apprehensions of a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, New Delhi will have to ensure at all costs that its multifarious reconstruction projects that have spawned such a huge reservoir of goodwill for India and Indians in Afghanistan are not adversely impacted due to sinister designs of extremists and terrorists. India has pledged over $2 billion for the reconstruction of Afghanistan and thousands of Indians have risked their lives in building the Afghan parliament, roads, dams, erecting power transmission lines, digging tubewells and running sanitation projects.
India has projected Afghanistan as “a narrative of opportunity,” and the hub of a new silk route spawning prosperity and integration in the region. India and the world community has critical stakes in ensuring that this narrative of hope and resurgence must triumph over the dark forces of terror and medievalism in Afghanistan in 2014 and beyond.
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