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Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar. (Mint)
Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar. (Mint)

India, Afghanistan ink pact to construct $250 million Shatoot dam

  • Since 2001, when the US-led war on terrorism ousted the Taliban regime from Kabul, India has pledged and implemented development and reconstruction projects worth over $ 3 billion

NEW DELHI : NEW DELHI: India on Tuesday announced that it has signed an agreement with Afghanistan for the construction of the Shatoot dam, which would provide safe drinking water to two million residents of Kabul city.

Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar who joined the 2020 Afghanistan Conference via video link, organized in Geneva on 23-24 November co-hosted by the UN, the Afghanistan government and the government of Finland, also announced more than 100 projects that India will be undertaking in Afghanistan worth $ 80 million.

Taken together, the two projects underline India’s backing to Afghan government headed by President Ashraf Ghani and the people of the war torn country as well as its intention to stay involved in development work despite the possibility of the Taliban returning to Kabul though a power sharing arrangement. India is wary of the Taliban given its proximity to Pakistan and its military spy agency the Inter-Services-Intelligence. Ghani’s government is currently engaged in peace talks with the rebel Taliban after the US entered into a deal with the group in February to allow the exit of US-led foreign troops from the country after a stay of almost two decades.

In the works for several years, the approximately $250 million Shatoot dam had previously triggered concerns in lower riparian state Pakistan that it would reduce water flow into Pakistan. “Large infrastructure projects completed include construction of 218 kilometre road from Delaram to Zaranj (on Iranian border) which provides alternate connectivity for Afghanistan through Iran; India–Afghanistan friendship dam (also known as the Salma dam); and the Afghan Parliament building which was inaugurated in 2015, a symbol of Afghan democracy," Jaishankar said.

In his comments, Jaishankar underlined “India’s long term commitment to the development of Afghanistan and the benefit to its people as a contiguous neighbor and strategic partner."

Since 2001, when the US-led war on terrorism ousted the Taliban regime from Kabul, India has pledged and implemented development and reconstruction projects worth over $ 3 billion, according to the Indian foreign ministry.

In his remarks, Jaishankar said that no part of Afghanistan was currently “untouched’ by the “400 plus projects" that India has undertaken in all 34 of provinces of Afghanistan. He also spoke about Afghan students coming to study in India with their number being more than 65,000 over the years.

In a bid to improve trade and connectivity with Afghanistan, India has been trying to develop the Chabahar port in Iran and also launched an air freight corridor between several Indian and Afghan cities, the minister said. Afghanistan’s growth has been constrained by its land locked geography, the minister said adding that India’s humanitarian assistance of 75,000 tonnes of wheat to strengthen food security of Afghanistan during the covid pandemic had been transported through Chabahar port.

Jaishankar also spoke of the need for preserving the gains achieved in Afghanistan in the past two decades ie education of women – something underlined by speakers from other countries at the conference as well. The minister also called for the protection of interests of the minorities and vulnerable sections and expressed concern over the high levels of violence despite the ongoing peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan government – which was also echoed by other speakers.

The minister sought an “immediate and comprehensive ceasefire," an Indian foreign ministry statement said adding “as an important stakeholder, India looks forward to walk hand in hand with the people of Afghanistan and world community in working towards a peaceful, prosperous, sovereign, democratic and united Afghanistan."

Speaking at the event earlier in the day, Afghan president Ghani thanked India for its development work in Afghanistan.

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