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Singh's trip to Kabul worries Pak: US media
India pledged an additional $ 500 million in assistance to Afghanistan.
Washington: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's high-profile political visit to Afghanistan and cementing of ties with a strategic partnership "are all but certain to raise hackles in Pakistan," a leading US daily said on Friday, as the American media took unusual interest in his Kabul trip.
"With a high-profile political visit and a promise of more aid, India moved ahead on Thursday to cement it's ties with the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's overtures that are all but certain to raise hackles in Pakistan, which has long sought to limit Indian influence here (in Afghanistan)," the Los Angeles Times said in a report from Kabul.
At a time when the regional balance of power has been roiled by the killing of Osama bin Laden in his Pakistani hideaway by US forces, Singh also lent support to the Karzai government's efforts to strike a peace deal with the Taliban, which Pakistan helped create and nurture, the paper noted.
During Singh's visit, India pledged an additional $ 500 million in assistance to Afghanistan, a 30 per cent increase over the $ 1.5 billion in aid it already has provided for a variety of projects, many of them major infrastructure undertakings such as building roads and hospitals, noted the Times report, which was also published in Chicago Tribune.
Pakistan has long voiced suspicion over India's aid to Afghanistan and its well-entrenched diplomatic presence in the form of consulates across the country. Seemingly mindful of that, Singh and Karzai declared in a joint statement that their strategic partnership was "not directed against any other state or group of states," the report noted.
The Washington Post, which published a report by AP from Kabul, noted that Singh's first visit in six years appeared to signal that India sees an opportunity to pull Afghanistan closer to its side as Islamabad's precarious relationship with the US is further strained by the bin Laden strike.
The New York Times reported that Afghanistan and India have agreed to move ahead on a strategic partnership framework during Singh's visit to Kabul, "just weeks after a visit (in late April) from the Prime Minister of Pakistan, India's arch-rival."
"The agreement, which is still in the drafting stages, would centre on economic development but would also include an educational component," it said, while taking note of the liberal $ 500 million aid.
"Coming on the heels of a visit by much of Pakistan's civilian and military leadership, including Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, the Indians' trip was a reminder of how much Pakistan and India are competing for geopolitical advantage in Afghanistan, and it underscored President Hamid Karzai's efforts to court the two countries.
"It has been a difficult balancing act because they are so fiercely antagonistic toward each other," NYT said.
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