Afghan president arrives in India on four-day trip

NEW DELHI: Afghan President Hamid Karzai arrived in India Thursday for a four-day visit, with Washington hoping New Delhi can persuade him to sign a deal allowing US troops to stay on post-2014.

Karzai is scheduled to meet Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid in the capital during the trip, which will also see him hold talks with business leaders and students in western Pune city.

The Afghan president, a frequent visitor to India, landed in New Delhi for the start of the four-day trip, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said, tweeting a photo of Karzai.

The president’s office said he would “discuss ways to enhance bilateral relations and cooperation” with India in the build-up to the departure of some 75,000 NATO troops from Afghanistan at the end of next year.

Karzai has long enjoyed close relations with New Delhi which is keen to ensure the exit of the US-led NATO troops does not trigger a return to power in Kabul of the Taliban. India has poured $2 billion in reconstruction aid into Afghanistan, and Karzai is expected to plead for further support, including military assistance, in his meetings.

A senior US official said this week that he hoped India could help persuade Karzai to ink an agreement for some US troops to stay in Afghanistan after 2014, despite Karzai’s insistence that he will leave the decision to his successor.