On Tuesday, India demonstrated its latest development initiative for Afghanistan. This includes a dam to supply water to Kabul and 150 community projects worth $80 million (approx. Rs. 592 crores). Despite major conflicts inflicted on the country, India has committed to the long-term development and welfare of Afghanistan.
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar made this announcement at the Afghanistan 2020 Conference through video conferencing. Other dignitaries present in the meeting included Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani, few UN and EU officials, and representatives of various countries.
So far, India has pledged $3 billion (approx Rs. 2,200 crores) to Afghanistan for their reconstruction and rebuilding. During the Taliban years from 1996 to 2001, India did not agree to invest in Afghanistan. Their latest decision, however, to invest in the future of the country is a huge shift from their older decision. With the Taliban playing more a more significant role in Afghanistan’s governance, India is gradually shedding the past uncertainty.
India will walk hand-in-hand with the Afghan people
Despite New Delhi’s tumultuous history with the Taliban, South Block is on its target to adapt to the new scenario and reach out to the Taliban in Afghanistan. Taliban has become more active in Afghanistan after the exit of the US.
“I am happy to announce today an agreement with Afghanistan for building the Shahtoot dam, which would provide safe drinking water to 2 million residents of Kabul city. It builds on the 202-km Phul-e-Khumri transmission line of 2009, through which we provided power to the city. India will also launch phase-IV of high-impact community development projects in Afghanistan, which include around 150 projects worth $80 million, ” said Jaishankar at the conference.
Mr. Jaishankar also added, “India has invested heavily in peace and development in Afghanistan. We strongly believe the gains of the last two decades must be preserved, and that the interests of minorities, women, and vulnerable sections must be ensured.”
Jaishankar also expressed concern about the issues of violence prevalent in the country. He said that the increasing level of violence in the Afghan nation remains a matter of grave concern. He added that while they would support all efforts to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan, India will call for an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire. Furthermore, he said that they also trusted that the peace process must be “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, and Afghan-controlled.”
Moreover, Jaishankar asserted that India is anticipating the chance to “walk hand in hand” with the Afghan citizens and the world community towards a “peaceful, prosperous, sovereign, democratic, and united Afghanistan.”
India has almost 400-plus projects in Afghanistan
It also quoted Jaishankar who said that there is no part of Afghanistan that India’s 400-plus projects have not touched. He added that they have spread projects across all the 34 provinces of their country.
According to Jaishankar, India has centered its present development programs in Afghanistan around five pillars, which are:
- Large infrastructure projects
- Human resource development and capacity building
- Humanitarian assistance
- High-impact community development projects
- Enhancing trade and investment through air and land connectivity
Out of the large infrastructure projects, the completed ones include the construction of a 218 km road from Delaram to Zaranj (on the Iranian border). This road would provide alternative connectivity for Afghanistan through Iran; Salma dam and the Afghan Parliament Building.
Additionally, more than 65,000 Afghan students have studied under different scholarship programs in India. Currently, 15,000 Afghan students are studying in India. The government has also granted 3,000 scholarships to young Afghan women. This has helped them to pursue higher education in India.
Jaishankar also talked about the numerous vocational training that India has provided a large number of Afghan women in Afghanistan. He also stated that this number shall increase every year with their long term commitment to help rebuild the Afghan country.
Jaishankar however, also talked about some difficulties that they have faced in their effort to rebuild Afghanistan. One reason is the country’s landlocked geography. The India-built Chabahar port provides alternative connectivity to the Afghan nation according to Jaishankar. He said that the port has helped in the transportation of 75,000 tonnes of wheat amidst the Covid pandemic. Additionally, 20 tonnes of life-saving medicines and other equipment to challenge the Covid pandemic were also transported by India according to him.