India opens two more consulates in Afghanistan

Monday, 16 December 2002, 20:30 IST
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NEW DELHI: India opened two more consulates in Afghanistan Monday ahead of a meeting of neighbouring countries in Kabul to sign a declaration of non-interference. Officials said the new consulates in Jalalabad and Kandahar in southeastern Afghanistan, close to the Pakistan border, started functioning Monday, taking the total number of Indian consulates in the country to four, besides the embassy in Kabul. New Delhi, which was among the first countries to reopen its embassy in Kabul after the fall of the Taliban regime last year, had set up consulates in Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif during External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha's visit to Afghanistan in August. The consulates in Jalalabad and Kandahar, which was the headquarters of Taliban's supreme leader Mullah Omar, were closed down after the fundamentalist militia seized control of most of Afghanistan in 1996. Pakistan had conveyed its concerns about India's decision to reopen these two consulates to the United States, which in turn conveyed it to New Delhi, saying Islamabad considered these areas as under its sphere of influence. India however rejected these concerns, saying its role in Afghanistan was only assisting in the reconstruction of the war-ravaged nation, unlike Islamabad's "interference" in the internal affairs of that country during the Taliban regime. The opening of the consulates comes ahead of the December 22 meeting in Kabul of Afghanistan's neighbours to sign a declaration of non-interference in the internal affairs of the country. Pakistan and Iran and three Central Asian neighbours -Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan - will be the signatories to the declaration on the first anniversary of the government of President Hamid Karzai in power. "This is a good development. It is important for Afghanistan to have good relations with all its neighbouring countries," a senior Indian official said, adding India would attend the meeting as an observer.. The decision to sign such a declaration was taken during the Bonn meeting on Afghanistan in November 2001 in the context of the country's past experience Besides India, the Group of Eight (G-8) industrialised countries and some major Islamic countries would also attend the meeting.
Source: IANS