India to help Afghanistan on development projects, security
New Delhi: A fortnight after US President Donald Trump unveiled his new Afghanistan strategy aimed at quelling the Taliban insurgency and outlining a greater role of India in stabilizing Afghanistan, India on Monday announced plans to provide the war-torn country with more assistance to strengthen its security forces as well as deepen development partnership cooperation.
After talks with her Afghan counterpart Salahuddin Rabbani, Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj said 116 new “high impact” development projects will be implemented jointly in 31 provinces of Afghanistan.
India will assist in development projects like the Shatoot dam and drinking water supply project for Kabul, low-cost housing for returning refugees, water supply network for Charikar city and a polyclinic in Mazar-e-Sharif, the Indian minister told reporters in New Delhi.
“Focus will continue on building governance and democratic institutions, human resource capacity and skill development, including in the areas of education, health, agriculture, energy, application of remote sensing in resource management and space technology in governance,” she said.
A joint statement released after talks said both countries agreed to “strengthen security cooperation” and India “agreed to extend further assistance for the Afghan national defence and security forces in fighting the scourge of terrorism, organized crime, trafficking of narcotics and money laundering.”
A person familiar with the developments said India would be providing increased training facilities for Afghan defence forces that have been battling a resurgent Taliban for many years. India has pledged $3.1 billion in assistance to Afghanistan since the ouster of the Taliban from Kabul in November 2001. It is one of the biggest donors in the region to the war-torn country.
Swaraj said New Delhi will continue to work with Afghans in their efforts “to build a secure, stable, peaceful, prosperous, united and inclusive Afghanistan.”
The two countries also signed four agreements including one on vehicular movement to boost overland transit between India and landlocked Afghanistan.
Thanking India for its unflinching support for peace and stability in Afghanistan, Rabbani said Afghanistan’s friendship with India or any other country does not mean hostility with others in the neighbourhood.
“Unlike others, Afghanistan has hardly sought security in the insecurity of others,” Rabbani said, adding that Afghanistan being a landlocked country, its peace and prosperity is dependent on “those of our neighbours near and extended.”
“That is why we reject zero sum approaches that undermine our collective security today and in years to come,” he said.
Referring to Pakistan-based “terrorists groups” like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed which launched attacks against India, Rabbani said these groups were also responsible for “engaging in similar terrorist activities along with Taliban, Al-Qaeda and Daesh (Islamic State) in Afghanistan.”