NEW DELHI – Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday conveyed India’s ‘unwavering commitment’ to assisting Afghanistan in its efforts to build a peaceful, democratic and prosperous country and hoped the strategic bilateral partnership would be further strengthened in the critical period ahead. The assurance was given by the Indian Prime Minister when Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul called on him at his residence here. “He (Singh) reiterated India’s unwavering commitment to assisting the government and people of Afghanistan in their endeavour to build a peaceful, stable, democratic and prosperous country,” a statement issued by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said. Singh welcomed the holding of the first session of the India-Afghanistan Partnership Council and expressed the hope that the strategic partnership between India and Afghanistan would be further strengthened in the critical period ahead. Earlier in the day, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and Rassoul co-chaired the inaugural session of the India-Afghanistan Partnership Council which has been mandated to implement the Strategic Partnership Agreement signed by Singh and Karzai in October 2011. Besides his meeting with Singh, during which they discussed a range of bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest, Rassoul also held parleys with Krishna and National Security Adviser Shivshankar MenonAfghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul on Tuesday said that a political approach was needed to counter the Taliban, and added that the Hamid Karzai-led government would be willing to talk with only those groups who recognise and respect the democratic set up and the sanctity of human rights. Addressing a joint news conference with Indian External Affairs Minister SM Krishna here, Rassoul said: “We are not only looking at the military side of preparation to fight against Taliban but also a political solution. The political situation of peace process is based on a decision by the Jirga (House of Representatives) which approved that Afghanistan needs peace but also put a condition for this peace and that line in the condition is that they are going to talk to those people who accept our Constitution, respects all the achievements that we have made in the past 10 years means democratic processes, woman rights, human rights, freedom of the press etc. so we are going to talk to those people who accept this condition, the process is in place and we have just started to see how achievement we can make.”He also said that India’s contribution in training Afghanistan’s national security forces would be pivotal with the end of international military operations in the country after 2014. “As you know, that the end of 2014 is going to be the end of military operation of the international force in Afghanistan and Afghanistan will take the full responsibility of the security in Afghanistan. So we are in discussion with our partners, the international community of sustainability and training of Afghan national security forces that are becoming a real force and have demonstrated that in the recent attack in Kabul. With India we are continuing to discuss about the training our officers in not only national security forces but also in equipping in the longer term our security forces,” Rassoul said.Earlier, Rassoul and Krishna held detailed discussions in a bid to strengthen bilateral ties and addressed the first session of the India-Afghanistan Partnership Council to implement the Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) signed between the two nations last year.Throwing light on the first session of the India-Afghanistan Partnership Council, Rassoul said that he discussed key political, economic, cultural and military issues in a bid to improve their strategic partnership.“The two of us (India and Afghanistan) in two of our respective deliberations have had an opportunity in the past two days to discuss and share concrete ideas and plans in moving forward our cooperation in the security and political, economic and trade education and capacity building, social and cultural field and people-to-people contacts. Our cooperation and partnerships in all these areas is not only good for the country but also important for promoting peace, security and prosperity in the region,” said Rassoul.On his part Krishna hailed the inaugural session of the Indo-Afghan Partnership Council.“Foreign Minister Dr Zalmai Rassoul and I have today embarked on a landmark step in our bilateral relations by co-chairing the inaugural session of the India-Afghanistan Partnership Council. Our meeting formally sets in motion with the implementation of the Strategic Partnership Agreement signed in October 2011 between the Prime minister of India and President of Afghanistan,” said Krishna.He further noted that the Council is proof of India’s unflinching support to Afghanistan in its reconstruction endeavours.“This event is also a reflection that India is unwavering in its commitment to assisting the people of Afghanistan in their endeavour to build a peaceful, stable, democratic and prosperous nation,” added Krishna.Krishna confirmed that India would aide Afghanistan’s rehabilitation projects to promote it as a stable nation sans the presence of extremist forces like Taliban.“Our approach of high level political engagements and broad base developmental assistance in a wide range of sectors which have been identified by the Afghan government as priority areas of the construction and development will not only continue but is said to intensify under the framework of the partnership counsel. We will continue our engagement in reconstruction and rehabilitation projects in alignment with the Afghan national development strategy. We will continue to partner the Afghan government to ensure that Afghanistan is a source of regional stability and does not become a target for extremist forces,” said Krishna.