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new delhi :

India has signed an agreement with Afghanistan for the construction of the Shahtoot Dam, which will provide safe drinking water to two million residents of Kabul city, the Indian government said on Tuesday.

Indian foreign minister S. Jaishankar, who joined the two-day event, 2020 Afghanistan Conference, organized in Geneva, via video link, said India will undertake more than 100 projects worth $80 million in Afghanistan. The conference was co-hosted by the UN, the Afghanistan government, and the government of Finland.

The projects underline India’s backing of the Afghan government headed by President Ashraf Ghani and the people of the war-torn country, as well as its intention to stay involved in the development of the country 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 engaged in peace talks with the Taliban after the US entered a deal with the rebel group in February to allow the exit of US-led foreign troops after almost two decades.

The approximately $250 million Shahtoot Dam project had previously triggered concerns in Pakistan that it would reduce water flow into the lower riparian country.

“Large infrastructure projects completed include construction of a 218-km road between Delaram and Zaranj (on the Iranian border), which provides an alternative 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, which is a symbol of Afghan democracy," Jaishankar said.

The external affairs minister also underlined “India’s long-term commitment to the development of Afghanistan and the benefit to its people as a contiguous neighbour and strategic partner".

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

No part of Afghanistan is “untouched’ by the “400-plus projects" that India has undertaken in all 34 provinces of the country, Jaishankar added. He also said that more than 65,000 Afghan students have come to study in India over the years.

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


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