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Remarks by Prime Minister at the Banquet Lunch hosted by the President of Afghanistan

May 12, 2011

Your Excellency President Hamid Karzai,
Distinguished Ministers,
Distinguished guests,

Thank you for your warm words of welcome and most generous hospitality. This is indeed in the best traditions of Afghanistan, and I feel extremely privileged to experience this hospitality first hand today. Thank you, Mr. President, for hosting me and my delegation to this extraordinary banquet.

I am delighted to be here in Afghanistan. This is an ancient land steeped in history and culture. When I see the love, affection and friendship in the eyes of the many faces around me, I know that I am visiting not just a neighbour but a very special friend. The presence of such a large number of prominent Afghan personalities here is enriching and humbling.

The bonds between India and Afghanistan have been forged over centuries. They have tied us together in traditions and faiths. They are immortalized in the poetry of Amir Khusro, the shrines of Salim Chisti and Moinuddin Chisti and the grave of Bidel Dehlavi. Trade, people and ideas have flowed between our lands. Afghan fruits and dry fruits are treasured delicacies in India.

I have come here with a message of solidarity, friendship and goodwill from the people of India to the people of Afghanistan. India is your neighbour and partner in development. You can count on us as you build your society, economy and polity.

Afghanistan has endured great suffering and violence. The time has come to put an end to this violence. Afghanistan should be allowed to rebuild itself, in the way its people want it to. Afghanistan deserves to occupy its rightful place in the global community.

We wish to see a peaceful, stable, democratic and pluralistic Afghanistan, that is in harmony with the culture, genius and temperament of its people. We strongly support the Afghan people’s quest for peace and reconciliation. India supports the unity, integrity and prosperity of Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has made significant strides under President Karzai. He is a great patriot who has led his country without fear or favour. His friendship towards India has won the hearts and minds of Indians, and made a strong partnership between India and Afghanistan a living reality.

The journey ahead for both India and Afghanistan to fulfil the aspirations of our peoples is a long one. There will be obstacles, but if we stand together we will achieve our goals. We will prevail, we will win.

We should have a long term vision of our relations and act accordingly. We should be ambitious in shaping our future ourselves. We should harness the goodwill that exists between our people and encourage much greater exchanges at all levels both within and outside government.

Your Excellency,

I once again thank you for such a special welcome. This will remain forever etched in my memory.

In conclusion, allow me to wish the people of Afghanistan peace, prosperity and happiness.

May 12, 2011

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