India’s Afghan investment
Why in the news?
- The Taliban’s possible triumph threatens not just India’s diplomatic stakes in Afghanistan, but also 20 years and $3 billion worth of Indian investment in various projects – dams, roads, trade infrastructure.
Indian projects across the country
- The 2011 India-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreement recommitted Indian assistance to help rebuild Afghanistan’s infrastructure and institutions; education and technical assistance for capacity-building in many areas; encourage investment in Afghanistan; and provide duty-free access to the Indian market. Bilateral trade is now worth $1 billion.
Indian Projects In Afghanistan
Already, there has been fighting in the area where one of India’s high-visibility projects is located -the 42MW Salma Dam in Herat province.
The hydropower and irrigation project, completed against many odds and inaugurated in 2016, is known as the Afghan-India Friendship Dam.
In the past few weeks, the Taliban have mounted attacks in nearby places, killing several security personnel. The Taliban claim the area around the dam is now under their control.
- The other high-profile project was the 218-km Zaranj-Delaram highway built by the India’ Border Roads Organisation.
- Zaranj is located close to Afghanistan’s border with Iran. The $150-million highway goes along the Khash Rud river to Delaram to the northeast of Zaranj, where it connects to a ring road that links Kandahar in the south, Ghazni and Kabul in the east, Mazar-i-Sharif in the north, and Herat in the west.
- The Afghan Parliament in Kabul was built by India at $90 million. Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the building in 2015.
- Modi described the building as India’s tribute to democracy in Afghanistan. A block in the building is named after former Prime Minister AB Vajpayee.
- In 2016, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Prime Minister Modi inaugurated the restored Stor Palace in Kabul, originally built in the late 19th century, and which was the setting for the 1919 Rawalpindi Agreement by which Afghanistan became an independent country.
- The building housed the offices of the Afghan foreign minister and the ministry until 1965. In 2009, India, Afghanistan, and the Aga Khan Development Network signed a tripartite agreement for its restoration.
- Other Indian projects in Afghanistan include the rebuilding of power infrastructure such as the 220kV DC transmission line from Pul-e-Khumri, capital of Baghlan province to the north of Kabul, to beef up electricity supply to the capital.
- Indian contractors and workers also restored telecommunications infrastructure in many provinces.
- India has reconstructed a children’s hospital it had helped build in Kabul in 1972 —named Indira Gandhi Institute for Child Health in 1985 -that was in shambles after the war.
- ‘Indian Medical Missions’ have held free consultation camps in several areas. Thousands who lost their limbs after stepping on mines left over from the war have been fitted with the Jaipur Foot.
- India has also built clinics in the border provinces of Badakhshan, Balkh, Kandahar, Khost, Kunar, Nangarhar, Nimruz, Nooristan, Paktia and Paktika.
- India gifted 400 buses and 200 mini-buses for urban transportation, 105 utility vehicles for municipalities, 285 military vehicles for the Afghan National Army, and 10 ambulances for public hospitals in five cities.
- It also gave three Air India aircraft to Ariana, the Afghan national carrier, when it was restarting operations.
- India has contributed desks and benches for schools, and built solar panels in remote villages, and Sulabh toilet blocks in Kabul.
- New Delhi has also played a role in building capacity, with vocational training institutes, scholarships to Afghan students, mentoring programmes in the civil service, and training for doctors and others.
- India recently concluded an agreement with Afghanistan for the construction of the Shahtoot Dam in Kabul district, which would provide safe drinking water to 2 million residents.
- India also announced the start of some 100 community development projects worth $80 million.
Bilateral trade relations
- Despite the denial of an overland route by Pakistan, India-Afghanistan trade has grown with the establishment in 2017 of an air freight corridor. In 2019-20, bilateral trade crossed $1.3 billion.
- The balance of trade is heavily tilted- exports from India are worth approximately $900 million, while Afghanistan’s exports to India are about $500 million.
- Afghan exports are mainly fresh and dried fruit. Some of this comes overland through the Wagah border; Pakistan has permitted Afghan trade with India through its territory. Indian exports to Afghanistan take place mainly through government-to-government contracts with Indian companies. Exports include pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, computers and related materials, cement, and sugar.
- Two air corridors — Kabul-Delhi and Herat-Delhi — are in operation now. Trade through Chabahar started in 2017 but is restricted by the absence of connectivity from the port to the Afghan border. Trade volumes are minuscule.
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