THE meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Hamid Karzai on Monday in New Delhi took place at a 'critical hour' as maintained by the former. Considering the developments in the region, particularly the growing Indian interest in Afghan affairs, it could not be just written off as another get-together. Prime Minister Singh announced additional $450 million in aid for Afghanistan and said that the Zaranj-Delaram highway in the west of the country being built by India would soon be completed. Terming the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul on July 7, which Kabul and New Delhi had attributed to Pakistan's ISI, as an attack on Indo-Afghan friendship, both leaders vowed to jointly combat terrorism. President Karzai agreed with Dr Singh in his stress on the need to rein in the insurgent and rebel groups, which are hampering the reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. Perhaps the suicide attack near the Indian embassy has strengthened the two countries' desire to come closer to each other and make concerted efforts to isolate Islamabad. New Delhi has been extending its influence inside Afghanistan, especially after the Taliban regime had been toppled, and the common factor of hard feelings towards Pakistan has helped them in this context. India has invested heavily in Afghanistan. More and more Indian firms are implementing development projects there. India has also established consulates outside Kabul, which are, as pointed out by Pakistan on several times, operating against its interests. The Pakistan government should be paying due attention to satisfying Afghan grievances and offer joint ventures to Afghanistan that meet its needs to enable the climate of trust to emerge between Islamabad and Kabul. We have longstanding ties with our northern neighbour and share ethnic, cultural and historic bonds with its people. Pakistan played host to over three million refugees following the Soviet aggression and a majority of them are still here. Both countries could help each other in different ways. Being landlocked, Afghanistan depends upon Pakistan for most of its business transactions with the outside world. The agreement signed by Pakistan with Afghanistan and Central Asian states on Monday for the import of 1300MW of electricity from CAR states should help both countries to get closer. To counterbalance the Indian influence, there should be increased economic cooperation between Kabul and Islamabad. Finally the fulcrum on which this and other related possibilities rest is that of peace in Afghanistan and Pakistan should do all it can to bring that about. Mr Karzai, who is virtually the President of Kabul as his government's writ does not extend beyond the capital, should do more to strengthen ties with Pakistan instead of playing second fiddle to New Delhi.