Vice President Hamid Ansari Tuesday headed the Indian delegation at the funeral of Afghanistan's first vice president Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim in Kabul and also met Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Official sources said Ansari had a detailed discussion with Karzai at the Presidential Palace in Kabul regarding the situation in Afghanistan as it heads for presidential elections April 5.
The sources said Karzai thanked Ansari for braving snow and bad weather to attend the funeral and said it reflected the "all-weather" nature of India-Afghanistan relations.
Karzai emphasised that irrespective of the outcome of the elections and the orientation of the new leadership, the friendship with India will remain a "top priority" for any government in Afghanistan.
Ansari said the friendship between the people of the two countries existed much before the friendship between the governments and there was unanimity in India about the need of continuing good relations with Afghanistan.
He said India's strong bond of friendship with Afghanistan was a "matter of conviction not convenience".
Ansari, who had served as India's ambassador to Afghanistan in 1989-90, was accompanied by three former ambassadors - Vivek Katju (2002-05), Rakesh Sood (2005-07) and Jayant Prasad (2008-10).
The delegation also included S.K. Lambah, the prime minister's special envoy and point person for Afghanistan.
The sources said the inclusion of former ambassadors in the delegation for a funeral was the first in the realm of India's foreign engagement and reflected the importance that India placed on the strategic partnership with Afghanistan.
Describing Fahim as an" illustrious son of Afghanistan" and a towering leader of the Afghan people, Ansari wrote in the condolence book that in Marshal Fahim's passing away, India has lost a "true partner".
Ansari's visit to Kabul follows Karzai's recent trip to New Delhi and External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid's visit to Kandahar last month.
The vice president, who was the seniormost foreign dignitary at the funeral, and his delegation had departed for Kabul Tuesday morning.
The delegation's arrival in Kabul was delayed by bad weather and poor visibility due to snowy conditions. The delegation returned to Delhi in the evening.
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