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Last Updated: Friday, 26 August 2005, 12:49 GMT 13:49 UK
India wants access to Afghanistan
India says Pakistan is hindering its attempts to provide assistance to Afghanistan by not allowing it transit access through Pakistani territory.

India is forced to despatch people and goods to Afghanistan via Iran, rather than through Pakistan, foreign secretary Shyam Saran said.

He made the allegations ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Afghanistan on Sunday.

It will be the first visit of an Indian prime minister in 29 years.

"Part of the difficulty we have in reaching assistance to Afghanistan is because we have to take a rather circuitous route through Iran to get to Afghanistan precisely because we do not have transit as yet through Pakistan," Mr Saran told journalists in Delhi.

Large donor

He said that Manmohan Singh will announce $50m of new aid while he is in Afghanistan

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Indian External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh
Afghan President Hamid Karzai visited India in February
Former Afghan king Zahir Shah will also lay the foundation stone of the new Parliament House in Kabul which will be constructed by India.

"We want Afghanistan to emerge as a democratic, independent, sovereign country fully in mastery of its own destiny," Mr Saran said.

India has been a strong supporter of the Northern Alliance, who fought against the Taleban in Afghanistan and are an influential part of the current government.

Since the fall of the Taleban India has increased its diplomatic presence in Afghanistan and stepped up economic assistance.

So far it has provided $500m in assistance to Afghanistan, Mr Saran said.

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