The fight against terrorism and extremism topped the agenda of talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Afghan President Hamid Karzai as the two leaders met ahead of the SAARC summit.

“India remains committed to assist the people of Afghanistan. We discussed the issue of terrorism which threatens our region,” Mr. Singh said after talks with Mr. Karzai here.

Mr. Karzai, who is here on a two-day visit before going to Bhutan to attend the SAARC summit beginning April 28, said he and Mr. Singh discussed the situation in Afghanistan and “our common struggle against terrorism and extremism.”

“We discussed the upcoming Afghanistan Peace Consultations which should comprise people of Afghanistan, those from all walks of life to advise on how to move forward for reintegration and reconciliation of those elements of Taliban and others who have accepted the Constitution or not part of the Al Qaeda or any terrorist network,” Mr. Karzai said.

Speaking about the attack on Indians in Afghanistan, he said, “I expressed my sympathy and condolences of Afghan people at the cowardly attacks on the Indian construction workers, the medical staff and the (Indian) embassy in Kabul.”

He also conveyed his gratitude to India for helping in the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

Mr. Singh said, “I had an extremely productive discussion with Mr. Karzai and discussed a whole range of bilateral and regional issues of mutual interest. I look forward to working with Mr. Karzai”.

Terrorists struck on February 26 at two hotels in Kabul, which were home to Indians engaged in developmental projects, killing nine of them and injuring 10 others.

Mr. Singh said the Afghan President assured him that Kabul would take all possible measures for the safety of Indians in that country.

“We were of the view that the attacks of February 26 were the handiwork of those who do not wish to see the emergence of a strong, independent and pluralistic Afghanistan,” the Prime Minister said.

He said that he conveyed to Mr. Karzai that the perpetrators of such attacks would not succeed in undermining India’s commitment to assist the people of Afghanistan.

The Prime Minister said he was looking forward to working with Mr. Karzai for further enhancing the close cooperation, stressing it was in the interest of the people of the two countries and peace and stability in the region and beyond.

He said India was ready to augment its assistance for capacity building and for skill and human resources development to help strengthen public institutions there.

Mr. Karzai said he had thanked the Indian leadership for the assistance in the construction of roads and the expansion of power lines from North to Central Afghanistan.

He also thanked the Prime Minister for more than 1200 scholarships to Afghan students for studying in India.

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