New Delhi: State-run Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (Bhel) plans to hold health camps in Afghanistan as a goodwill gesture, demonstrating India’s commitment to the war-ravaged nation.
The country’s largest power generation equipment manufacturer will fly doctors from India to establish health camps in Afghan villages. It has held similar camps in African countries such as Libya and Sudan, where it wants to tap a growing demand for power generation equipment.
“We want to create goodwill in Afghanistan,” said chairman and managing director B.P. Rao. “India’s engagement with Afghanistan will continue and we will support the government’s initiatives there.”
Indian workers in Afghanistan have increasingly come under attack from regrouped Taliban militant forces. Bhel has been an important part of India’s engagement with Afghanistan in rebuilding infrastructure as part of India’s attempt to expand its regional influence.
Bhel plans to supply solar power generation modules for rural electrification in the southern province of Kandahar and two power substations at Doshi and Charikar as a grant, Mint reported on 16 September.
India has used its expertise in the power sector to help rebuild infrastructure in Afghanistan. It constructed a 202km transmission link and the Chimtala substation with an investment of Rs405 crore for the import of power from Uzbekistan to Kabul—a significant help for the power-starved country. It also built a 218km road link between Delaram and Zaranj, adjacent to Iran’s border. India is developing the 42MW Salma hydroelectric project in Herat province, expected to be commissioned by 2010.
“The excellent development work that we have done for the people of Afghanistan under constant threat from terrorist forces needs to be explained to the world. We have traditionally tended to adopt a fairly conservative approach towards publicizing our own work,” Indian foreign secretary Nirupama Rao said at a seminar on public diplomacy on Friday.
India has invested $1.3 billion (Rs5,850 crore) for rebuilding Afghanistan and views the country as key to its strategic interests, not least because it is situated at the crossroads between South Asia and energy-rich Central Asia.
Islamabad, however, is keen to see a Pakistan-friendly administration in Kabul that it can fall back on in the event of a conflict with India.
In recent months, New Delhi has been feeling left out despite its assistance to rebuild Afghanistan since the overthrow of the Taliban by US-led forces in November 2001.
While India and the US, which has 140,000 troops fighting a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan, agree on the need to defeat the Taliban and strengthen democracy, there are differences on how this should be achieved.
In a separate development, Bhel expects to end this financial year with a 10% increase in orders. Bhel had orders worth Rs1.44 trillion on its book in 2009-10 and now has contracts to supply machinery worth Rs1.58 trillion. “It will be better than last year,” said Rao.
Bhel had a net profit of Rs4,287 crore on a revenue of Rs34,050 crore in fiscal 2010. It has a cash surplus of Rs10,000 crore and aims to become a $10 billion-plus firm by 2012. Primary international markets for the company, which plans to raise export orders to Rs10,300 crore by 2012, are West Asia, Africa and Central Asia.
In another development, Bhel is in separate talks with Larsen and Toubro Ltd (L&T) and Pipavav Shipyard Ltd for jointly manufacturing offshore rigs. “We are in talks with L&T and Pipavav Shipyard among others for exploring the opportunity of manufacturing offshore rigs,” said Rao.
M. Jitendran, CEO?of Pipavav Shipyard, and an L&T spokesperson declined comment.
Bhel used to make oil rigs until 25 years ago. In April 2007, the firm announced its re-entry into the segment, and later, attracted by potential opportunities in the domestic and global markets, decided to enter the offshore rigs segment as well. But it hasn’t been able to start its offshore rig manufacturing business yet.
P. Manoj and Elizabeth Roche contributed to this story.