Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh said India supports the efforts being made to begin an "Afghan-owned and Afghan-led" peace process and hoped that it will help in reconciliation among various groups.

"We must all support this Afghan-led process. While doing so we must remember that any initiative to assist Afghanistan undertaken with inadequate preparation and not wholly executed is far more dangerous than no initiative at all," Singh said, articulating India's position on the peace process.

The Foreign Secretary was speaking at a meeting of senior officials representing the Istanbul Process.

Singh lauded the efforts of President Hamid Karzai for holding Presidential elections in April and observed that the polls face threats from the extremist groups.

"We think that all the building blocks for an election that will unite the whole of Afghanistan are already in place. The main threat to this election process is the continued efforts by extremist groups to undermine security and deny the
Afghan citizens the right to freely exercise his or her franchise," she said.

Singh said there was "never any justification" for terrorism and India strongly believes that it was only thorough international cooperation that the evil scourge of terror will be defeated.

"Afghan President Hamid Karzai has made great efforts to ensure that required legislation for an independent Election Commission and an independent Election Complaints Commission have been put in place in time for these elections," she said.

Noting that economic growth was key for Afghanistan's development, she said India held a meeting of leading businessmen recently to encourage them to do business in the country.

The Foreign Secretary said "consistent and clear message" received from the business community was about lack of connectivity of Afghanistan to major markets in the region.

"While they all see the potential of Afghanistan as a major economic hub for energy, raw material and trade, connectivity to the major markets of the region remains a major impediment. The time has come to seriously discuss the issue of transit arrangements for Afghanistan that can be provided by Afghanistan's neighbours," Singh said.

(Agencies)

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