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Associated Press

NEW DELHI (AP) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai urged Indian companies on Monday to invest in his country, and India's leader said economic development in the war-torn nation would contribute to stability in the region.

"Investment opportunities are better today in Afghanistan, a country that is more confident of its future," Karzai told reporters after meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Karzai's five-day visit is viewed as a bid to shore up security in the faction-ridden region before the planned departure of most NATO troops from Afghanistan in 2014.

India has invested more than $2 billion in Afghan infrastructure, including highways and hospitals and rural electricity projects. New Delhi is hoping to gain some influence in the country after 2014, when Afghan forces become responsible for the entire country's security.

"India has been a generous front-line partner in Afghanistan's rebuilding and reconstruction efforts," Karzai said.

Singh said his talks with Karzai covered bilateral relations and regional security.

"I reiterated to President Karzai our belief that Afghanistan's regional economic integration will contribute to the overall prosperity and stability in the region," Singh told reporters.

The two countries signed four agreements, including ones on mining and development of small enterprises.

Karzai, who arrived in India over the weekend, said one of his priorities during the visit is to urge Indian companies to invest in his country.

"Indian businessmen need not shy away. The Chinese came five to six years before you and they have already got two or three major contracts," Karzai told business leaders in Mumbai on Sunday.

He said Afghanistan would lay out a "red carpet" welcome for Indian businesses. "You should come in large numbers," Karzai said.

The two leaders also reviewed a strategic partnership agreement that the countries signed last year, Indian officials said.

India is helping the Afghan government rebuild its police forces, judiciary and diplomatic services. Small batches of Afghan soldiers are undergoing training at military schools in India.

"India is involved in capacity building in various fields including the security sector," said Yash Sinha, a top official in the Ministry of External Affairs. He refused to say how many Afghan soldiers had been trained in India.

India and Afghanistan are careful that their cooperation is not viewed as a threat by Pakistan, which lies sandwiched between them.

The governments of India and Afghanistan share a distrust of Pakistan. Afghanistan says Pakistan contributes to Afghan instability by offering a safe haven to Taliban insurgents. India accuses Pakistan of harboring and nurturing terrorists who have carried out attacks in India.

Karzai, who earned his college degree in India, has visited New Delhi more than a half dozen times in the past few years, most recently in October 2011.


(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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