KANDAHAR - Monitoring Desk/Agencies -  Amidst a standoff between Hamid Karzai the embattled President of Afghanistan and the US, India has announced that it saluted the brave and extraordinary leadership of Karzai in nurturing peace and democracy into the country torn by years of war, reported Indian media on Sunday.

Salman Khurshid, the Minister of External Affairs, in a speech inaugurating Afghanistan’s first agricultural university, backed the Afghan president and lauded the leadership he has shown for the past 12 years.

The minister, who arrived earlier Saturday on a visit of one day, said the Afghan upcoming elections were a testament to how democracy has established firm roots.

Khurshid said the election showed that democracy was working and that thanks to Karzai’s extraordinary leadership there has been great nurturing done to help it along.

Just as in India today, said Khurshid, no one can determine the outcome of the elections in Afghanistan.

In remarks during his speech, he extended the support of India to the government efforts in Afghanistan to establish a genuine Afghan-led, owned and controlled reconciliation procedure.

President Hamid Karzai on Saturday allayed India’s concerns over the uncertainty in Afghanistan ahead of the international troop pullout saying he is not against a ‘limited’ presence of international forces in the country.

Karzai also met Khurshid separately to discuss security related issues including his reluctance to sign with the US a bilateral security agreement which is important for ensuring a residual presence of US troops.

“I’m not against a limited presence of of Nato troops but this presence must become a source of support for Afghanistan,” Karzai told TOI after the meeting. He added that for that to happen Afghanistan needed support of both US and Pakistan.

Khurshid later said that India wanted some international forces to stay back in Afghanistan but added that Karzai had made a “careful calculation” in not signing the agreement with the US at this stage. He also appreciated the role of Afghan security forces in ensuring peace in the country.

On recent reports that he had clandestinely opened his own channel of communication with Afghan Taliban, Karzai said it was important to find “all opportunities for engagement”.

“To offer a chance to members of armed opposition groups willing to give up terror and abide by the Afghan Constitution, the possibility of participating as equal citizens in Afghanistan’s national life,” he said.

While Karzai has repeatedly demanded more military assistance, including lethal equipment, from India without much success, he expressed satisfaction over help received from India. “We are very satisfied because India, despite traditionally not being a donor country, has gone beyond its means to help Afghanistan,” he said. While India is yet to make up its mind to what extent it can go to provide military assistance to Kabul, Khurshid reiterated India’s commitment to provide 3 military transport choppers to Afghanistan.

Khurshid called upon international community to fulfil its pledges to rebuild the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police. He said the main threat to Afghanistan’s security and its internal stability is terrorism and extremism that continues to target the people of Afghanistan. “We too have been facing this threat for many years, and understand the importance in times like these of friends and strategic partners forging the closest of cooperation to defeat this evil scourge,” he said.

Karzai expressed hope that Pakistan will provide access for a key transit route for trade between his land-locked country and India, underlining that commerce between the three nations is an essential element for their progress and stability.

“The trade has to happen if they want to establish the region with prosperity and free of conflict. I hope Pakistan will soon give transit route to India,” he said.

“Trade between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Pakistan and India, and trade between the three countries is an essential element for the progress and stability of the countries,” Karzai said.

Commenting on the issue of a transit route with Afghanistan, Salman Khurshid said, “Pakistan has to open for the sake of Afghanistan. By this Afghanistan gets direct access to India via Pakistan. It will be of enormous help to Afghanistan.

“It is important that Afghanistan success would be guaranteed, if it has connectivity from all sides of border. We would want to see all countries step in including Pakistan,” he added.

Khurshid said India will continue to push for Chabahar Port in Iran as an alternative route to mineral-rich Afghanistan.

Khurshid also said that India has to resolve issues with Pakistan like granting of the Most Favoured Nation (MNF) status.

“They have promised MFN status to India, which has not been given to us yet,” he said.Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid has said that India will be providing helicopters to the Afghanistan army.

“We are giving them helicopters, and we will be supplying them very soon,” Khurshid said in New Delhi upon his return from Kandahar.

“We have also been giving them some logistical support and we hopefully will be able to upgrade and refurbish their transport aircraft,” he added.

Khurshid also stressed that it is important to maintain stability in Afghanistan.

“I think Afghan army has done a great job. We have contributed to their capacity building and their professional training. They are visible and are taking responsibility. They are responding well to the threats,” he said.

Khurshid also asserted that India is not reluctant in assisting the Afghanistan and stated that India has a clear policy world over which aims at building capacity. “We are not in the game of giving people large scale equipment which is lethal and so on,” he added.

He also described Afghanistan as ‘very special’ and said India is providing them whatever they felt up to now.