India says it will stand "shoulder-to-shoulder" with post-Taleban Afghanistan, and will provide humanitarian relief, reconstruction help and, if asked, peacekeeping troops to the war-ravaged country.
Wrapping up a two-day visit to New Delhi, Afghan interim leader Hamid Karzai and Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee announced a joint commitment to back the international fight against terrorism and religious extremism.
Mr. Karzai said coalition forces now inside Afghanistan would remain there as long as Afghans need them. He said he believes a national army could be operational in his country in about one year, at which time foreign troops would leave.
India was among the first nations to recognize Afghanistan's interim government, after U-S-led forces crushed the Taleban regime late last year in the war against terrorism. The New Delhi government has already pledged 100-million dollars in Afghan aid, and today (Wednesday) Mr. Vajpayee added another 10-million dollars to its aid package.
Mr. Karzai -- who led a 30-member political and economic delegation to New Delhi -- also confirmed that exiled former Afghan king, Mohammed Zahir Shah, will return to Afghanistan March 21st -- the first day of the Afghan new year.
Mr. Karzai is expected to go to Rome to escort the 87-year-old former monarch to Kabul.