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American security for Manmohan

Kabul, August 28
Very heavy American security was placed around Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh soon after he arrived in Kabul on a two-day official visit, the first by an Indian head of Government to the Afghan capital in 29 years. Indira Gandhi was the last Indian Prime Minister to visit Kabul in 1976.

The Prime Minister and his entourage were accorded a warm ceremonial reception at the airport and were received by Afghanistan's Interior Minister Taj Mohammad Wardak.

He was greeted with a 21-gun salute. The airport and the city of Kabul bore the look of a war zone, as it was heavily sanitised with the security manned by the 146th Airborne Division of the US Air Force and canine squads. The security personnel could be seen maintaining a strict vigil with their Uzi revolvers.

The Indian Tricolour was fluttering at the Ahmad Shah Masood Crossing in the heart of the city. As the convoy passed through, one could see the bombed part of the Presidential Palace in Kabul, which has been kept largely intact. Only the part of the building where President Karzai and his wife (a medical doctor) stay has been restored.

During his visit, Dr Singh is expected to hold wide-ranging talks with Mr Karzai on matters relating to New Delhi’s continued assistance to Kabul, as well as reviewing the situation in the region. He will also have a meeting with Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and other dignitaries.

The Prime Minister’s itinerary includes attending the laying of the foundation stone of the Afghan Parliament by King Zahir Shah, which is being constructed with India’s assistance.

Dr Singh and Mr Karzai are also expected to jointly hand over the Habibia School, renovated under India’s assistance programme, to Afghan authorities at a ceremony. Habibia School is one of Kabul’s premier educational institutions and both King Zahir Shah and President Karzai are its alumni.

Dr Singh will also lay the foundation stone of the Indian Chancery complex in Kabul and interact with the non-resident Indian community there.

Earlier, before his arrival in the Afghan capital, the Prime Minister had issued a departure statement in New Delhi in which he reiterated India’s support and commitment for Afghanistan’s economic reconstruction and rehabilitation.

He also said that he would use his two-day landmark visit to Kabul to “further strengthen our bilateral interaction and traditional bonds of friendship.” — ANI

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I am the Editor News, at Asian News International (ANI), Indias leading Multimedia News Agency and the India Correspondent for Channel News Asia, a Singapore based broadcaster.
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