| Rahul Gandhi in Kabul on Sunday. (PTI)
Kabul, Aug. 28: India was keen on both the Iran-Afghanistan-Pakistan and the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan gas pipelines that will pump much needed fuel into the country, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said here today.
Dispelling doubts that Delhi was more keen on the Iran pipeline, he said: “India’s commercial energy need is growing at an explosive rate and we need both pipelines.”
During his exclusive 30-minute confabulations with Karzai, Singh said he looked at the interaction between India and Afghanistan as an exchange between the world’s largest democracy and the youngest democracy.
The parliament building that India was involved in was a symbol of that.
President Karzai responded that the Parliament building ' former king Zahir Shah is to lay the foundation tomorrow ' is “magnificently meaningful for us as the Taj is for India.”
Karzai said that he was a product of the Indian education system and admired it greatly. The President later hosted a banquet in honour of the visiting Prime Minister.
Rahul Gandhi was also present at the event. “Afghanistan has always fascinated me,” Rahul said, adding that “I have come here only on a visit.”
At the press conference earlier in the day, Karzai said he had raised the issue of Afghanistan’s membership in Saarc with the Prime Minister. Singh had responded positively as had President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan on an earlier occasion, Karzai added.
Official sources suggested that Prime Minister Singh made no commitment but India expressed its willingness to engage on the subject.
On Indian offers for assistance in Afghanistan’s security set-up, Karzai said his government welcomed all efforts but added that it would have to be routed through the UN and international process.
The Afghan National Army, to which Indian support has been little more than a supply of vehicles, was a US-led project, Karzai pointed out.
The delegations of the two governments signed two memoranda of understanding ' one on small developmental projects and another on cooperation in agricultural research and education. They also signed an agreement on cooperation in healthcare and medicinal science.
Later, Karzai and Singh jointly inaugurated the Habibia High School, rebuilt by India’s Central Public Works Department (CPWD).
Both Karzai and Baba-e-Millat (Father of the Nation), Zahir Shah, have passed through its portals. The school was established in 1903 and its first principal was Indian.
Addressing a meeting after handing over the school, the Prime Minister said India would further consolidate its participation in the reconstruction efforts of the war-ravaged country.
“We firmly believe that strong educational institutions are the basis of a productive society and progressive nation,” Singh said.
Singh’s visit adds to Delhi’s list of giveaways to Afghanistan. The big takeaway is goodwill, with a capital G.