New Delhi: In an attempt to engage Afghanistan, India’s state-run electricity transmission firm Power Grid Corp. of India Ltd (PGCIL), along with Advanced Engineering Associates International Inc. (AEAI) of the US, will bid for the operations and maintenance contract (OMC) of the transmission network in the strife-torn nation.

Increasing influence: A neighbourhood in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital. India has been assisting the country in rebuilding infrastructure. Adam Dean / Bloomberg

It also completed the construction of the 218km road link in that country connecting Delaram with Zaranj, adjacent to Iran’s border.

The Asian Development Bank-funded OMC for the transmission network is valued at around Rs28 crore and is expected to see bids from six companies including Electricité de France.

“The tenure for the management of the network is around five years. We will submit the technical bid first in around two weeks. This apart from helping India’s interest in Afghanistan will also help us in bidding for other overseas projects as it will add to our portfolio," said a senior PGCIL executive, who did not want to be identified.

The commercial bids for the transmission contract are expected to be called in November, with the project expected to be awarded in December.

While AEAI executives did not respond to questions emailed over the weekend, S.K. Chaturvedi, chairman and managing director of PGCIL, confirmed the firm’s plans to bid for the contract.

“While AEAI will look after the logistics and arrange security and protection for our personnel, we will take care of the technical part and will be responsible for the operations," said another PGCIL executive, who too did not want to identified.

Indian workers in Afghanistan have increasingly come under attack from regrouped Taliban forces.

PGCIL has commissioned a 202km transmission link and the Chimtala sub-station at an investment of Rs405 crore for import of power from Uzbekistan to Kabul.

“We are aware of PowerGrid’s interest in the contract. It will have a very positive and developmental impact in the reconstruction of Afghanistan," said A. Munir Khan, commercial counsellor at the Afghanistan embassy in Delhi.

India is also developing a 42MW Salma hydroelectric project in Afghanistan’s Herat province, which is expected to be commissioned by 2010.

Brahma Chellaney, professor of strategic studies at the Centre for Policy Research, a New Delhi-based think tank, said: “It is a very smart strategy that India is following in Afghanistan where it has engaged in the civilian pursuits and leaving the military part to the others... India has earned a lot of goodwill through its investment in the infrastructure development in Afghanistan."

Some analysts are not convinced Afghanistan is the place for India to invest in.

Anuradha Chenoy, professor in the School of International Studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, said, “There is a risk of all of this coming to nothing. At the moment, there is a false sense of security there. Going forward, the question is whether the situation will stabilize? Is it worthwhile for India to make an investment there?"