New Delhi: The enduring trust and mutual understanding between India and Afghanistan go beyond political and strategic considerations and their bilateral ties have "neither an expiry date nor a timeline", President Pranab Mukherjee has said.
President Mukherjee conveyed these sentiments on Tuesday during a ceremonial reception accorded to visiting Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at Rashtrapati Bhavan and later at the presidential banquet in his honour.
Mukherjee also conveyed his condolences over the death of 52 people in a landslide in Badakhshan province of Afghanistan on Tuesday.
He said India shares the Afghan president's goal of building a strong, prosperous and independent Afghanistan and that "India supports an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned national reconciliation process within the framework of the Afghan constitution", said a Rashtrapati Bhavan statement on Wednesday.
"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 $683.10 million. Some 72 Indian companies have invested around $17 million in Afghanistan during 2003-2013. "India will encourage more companies to invest in Afghanistan," he said.
Ghani, who is staying at the Dwarka Suite of the presidential palace, said it was a singular honour to be invited to stay in Rashtrapati Bhavan and an important recognition granted to the people of Afghanistan.
In his banquet speech, President Mukherjee said India believes that the enduring trust and mutual understanding between India and Afghanistan go beyond political and strategic considerations.
"The history and geography the two countries shared is a compelling factor in nurturing our close ties. India is confident that over the next few years, Afghanistan will see a significant transformation across all sectors and in all areas of its social and economic advancement," the statement quoted him as saying.
Mukherjee 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 the entire neighbourhood.
To this end, the strategic partnership between the two countries looks to strengthen and diversify bilateral engagement in the coming years, including by forging a more robust trade and investment relationship between private sectors, he said.
Ghani, in his banquet speech, said that 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, Ghani said.
He said India has been a foundational partner for Afghanistan. Over 13,000 Afghan youth are studying in India. India's incredible generosity in providing health care, training, cultural exchanges and other much appreciated help continues the thousand-year-old history of friendship between 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 neighbourhood of partners committed to the principles of democracy, development and mutual security, he said.
Ghani said Afghanistan can be a critical partner for India for the project of building an integrated Asian powerhouse in the days to come.