NEW DELHI: India is gearing up for Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani’s first-ever visit to India in the last week of this month, even as Afghan First Lady arrived here on Tuesday to attend a conference. During Ashraf’s visit, New Delhi is likely to push for the strengthening of transit, trade and education ties.
Rula Ghani, the Lebanon-born wife of President Ashraf, arrived to deliver the keynote address at the two-day international conference on ‘Gender and violence in South Asia’ at the Jamia Milia Islamia University, which begins on April 15. On Tuesday evening, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj hosted a dinner party for her, which was attended by several prominent women. Sushma noted that Rula’s efforts to empower women in her country were remarkable given the tragic history of Afghanistan.
“We know that on the way, you had to court controversies and face unnecessary personal attacks,” Sushma said, describing Rula’s courage and grace as ‘signs of a great warrior.’ Rula’s image is different from that of her predecessors as President Hamid Karzai’s wife was not seen in public in the last 10 years.
Sources said that Ashraf’s visit would begin on April 27. Modi had earlier met him during the Saarc summit in Kathmandu in November, where they had a long conversation. Last month, Afghan Chief Executive, Abdullah Abdullah -- with whom India has close relations since the days of Northern Alliance -- was in Delhi. India attaches significance to Ashraf’s visit as it would be looking to clear the air on the perceived distancing by Kabul ever since it approached Pakistan for initiating peace process with the Taliban.
India will be pushing harder on trade and transit issues in order to make Afghanistan press Pakistan to allow Afghan trucks to enter and exit India.