In his speech at the banquet hosted in the honour of Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday, Mukherjee said India is Afghanistan's first strategic partner.
    
"Our engagement with Afghanistan... has neither an expiry date nor a timeline. As a friend and neighbour, India will always stand firmly beside Afghanistan," the President said.
    
"We remain deeply conscious that Afghanistan's unity, independence, security and stability are critical – not only for itself – but also for India and for peace and progress in our entire neighbourhood," he said.

The President said to this end, strategic partnership between the two countries looks to strengthen and diversify our bilateral engagement in the coming years, including by forging a more robust trade and investment relationship between our private sectors.
    
Terming the visit of Ghani as "special", Mukherjee said this time, he is visiting India as a leader of the National Unity Government in Afghanistan, as President of a proud nation with whom India has a cherished history of profound cultural, religious and civilisational bonds.
    
"We believe that the enduring trust and mutual understanding between India and Afghanistan go beyond political and strategic considerations. Our shared history and geography are a compelling factor in nurturing our close ties," Mukherjee said.

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