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Review: What have been India’s Investments in Afghanistan’s Development?

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India has evacuated all its diplomatic staff from Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. Since 2001, India has invested heavily in multiple development & humanitarian projects in Afghanistan and recently announced a few new ones. As the future of these projects lies in limbo, we look at some of the important projects, India undertook in the last 20 years in Afghanistan.

On 15 August 2021, the Taliban forces occupied Afghanistan’s capital Kabul, following a country-wide offensive over the past few months in which they captured most of the provinces in the country. This comes after the decision of the USA & its NATO allies to pull out of Afghanistan, signaling an end to the 20 years of their presence in Afghanistan. 

With the occupation of Kabul, the Taliban recaptured the power in the country, where it held its sway during 1996 and 2001 and was eventually driven out by the USA & allies in 2001. After 2001, the war-torn country of Afghanistan set out on its journey of recovery & reconstruction. These efforts were aided by the international community, with many international organizations & countries extending support through various avenues. With the current turn of events, the future of many of these projects & investments is in jeopardy. 

India has also been an active participant in the reconstruction initiatives in Afghanistan since 2001. While there is no clear indication yet on India’s engagement with the new regime, there are apprehensions about the state of India’s investments in the country. But how much did India invest in Afghanistan? What is the nature of the aid & investment over the last 20 years? We look at details of India’s investments in Afghanistan since 2001 in this story. 

India has invested over US$3 Billion in Afghanistan through various development projects 

In the update provided at the 2020 Afghanistan Conference in Geneva, India’s External Affairs Minister (EAM) Dr. S. Jaishankar, stated that India’s Development portfolio in Afghanistan has amounted to over US $ 3 billion. 

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As per the update of the EAM, India has invested in more than 400 development projects in Afghanistan, and these are spread across all the 34 provinces of Afghanistan. The minister further highlighted that India has provided humanitarian assistance of over 75 thousand tons of Wheat, to provide food security during the pandemic. This is a continuation of the aid that India has been extending over the years. 

Apart from the humanitarian aid, India’s major contribution towards development in Afghanistan is through the various infrastructure projects that it has taken up. In the conference, the Minister also announced a few of the proposed projects in Afghanistan. 

  • Construction of Shatoot Dam, to provide drinking water to 2 million residents of Kabul city. 
  • Phase -IV of the High Impact Community Development projects. This would involve more than 100 projects worth US $80 million. 

In addition to these proposed Projects, India has already taken up and completed few major projects in Afghanistan, some of which are major infrastructure projects. 

Afghanistan Parliament & Salma Dam are among the major infrastructure projects developed by India. 

response provided in Lok Sabha by the government in March 2016 outlined the major infrastructure projects undertaken by India in Afghanistan. 

Salma Dam/Afghan – India Friendship Dam 

One of the major infrastructure projects, which also stands as a symbol of India-Afghanistan cooperation is the reconstruction and completion of the Salma Dam in Herat Province. It is currently renamed as Afghan-India Friendship Dam.

The project was taken up & completed by WAPCOS Ltd. (Water and Power Consultancy Services Limited), which is a multinational government undertaking.  This Dam is a multi-purpose project and is planned to: 

  • Generate 42 MW of power 
  • Irrigate 75 thousand hectares of land. This includes irrigation to 35 thousand hectares & the development of additional irrigation facilities across 40 thousand hectares. 
  • Provide Water supply & other benefits to the people of Afghanistan. 

The dam was inaugurated on 04 June 2016. At a cost of Rs. 1.45 thousand crores (approx. US $273 million), this is one of the costliest infrastructure projects undertaken by India in Afghanistan. 

As per some news reports, the Taliban attacked this dam recently.

Afghan Parliament Building 

Another high-profile infrastructure project completed by India is the construction of the Afghanistan Parliament Building. The project began in August 2005 and was inaugurated towards the end of 2015. India’s Central Public Works Department (CPWD) was the consultant for the project and the contract was awarded to an Indian Infrastructure Company.  India spent around Rs. 970 crores in the construction of this building. 

Zaranj-Delaram Highway 

India undertook and completed a 218-KM Highway between Zaranj & Delaram, which is near the  Afghanistan-Iran Border. The project was completed in 2010. 

It was undertaken by the Border Roads Organization. This highway provides access to Iran’s Chahabar Port, which is of high strategic importance to India. The project was initially estimated at Rs.740 crores but was completed within a budget of Rs. 600 crores and 6 months ahead of the schedule. 

Construction of 220 KV Transmission Line

Apart from the development of Infrastructure in the form of Roads & Buildings, India also played a key role in developing the Power & Telecommunication infrastructure of Afghanistan. 

One of the key projects taken up in this area is the construction of 220 KV DC-transmission line from Pul-e-khumri capital of Baghlan province) to the North of Kabul, which facilitated an improved power supply to Kabul. This also included the construction of a Sub-station at Chimtala and two more power sub-stations at Doshi & Charikar. The estimate of the project is around US$ 111 million. 

Other projects related to the development of communication networks include: 

  • Construction & development of Telephone exchanges in 11 provinces connecting Kabul – US $ 11.1 million 
  • Expansion of National TV network with uplink from Kabul & down links to the capitals of all 34 provinces – the US$ 6.8 million

High Impact Community Projects & Humanitarian aid to Afghanistan 

Apart from these flagship projects, India undertook many other projects & extended human relief measures in Afghanistan. 

  • As per an update on 14 July 2009, India has committed around US$ 200 million to support around 550 projects under High Impact Community Development projects (HCDP) since 2005. 
  • Renovation of Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health (IGICH) Kabul at a cost of US $ 2.7 million. 
  • Rebuilding of Habibia school, Afghanistan’s first modern education institution (established in1903) at a cost of US $ 5 million. 
  • Commitment to provide 35 thousand digital telephones across 11 provincial capitals at a cost of US $ 10.5 million to aid the development of telecommunication network. 
  • Donation of 400 Tata & Ashok Leyland buses to develop transportation, plying between Kabul & 26 provinces. 
  • Construction of Warehouses & Storage facilities in Kandahar at a total cost of around US $ 4.7 million. 
  • Three Airbus aircraft carriers to Ariana Afghan airlines in 2002. 
  • Provision of 1 million tons of wheat in the form of High protein biscuits distributed among 1.4 million school kids daily under the School Feeding Programme administered under World Food Programme – US $ 100 million. 

These are only a few of the various developmental, humanitarian & relief projects undertaken by India in Afghanistan. 

The future of some of these projects is in limbo

Afghanistan is a key ally of India and is critical to India’s interests thanks to its geographical location. Afghanistan also featured prominently in India’s plans for the Chabahar port project in Iran as it will pave way for road access to Afghanistan and Central Asia bypassing Pakistan. 

Apart from this, India has a long history of association with Afghanistan. All this meant that India was at the forefront of the reconstruction activities in Afghanistan since 2001. 

As highlighted in the story, India committed huge amounts for major developmental projects in Afghanistan and was able to complete many of them. As highlighted in the 2020 Afghanistan conference, India announced a few new projects that are proposed to be taken up shortly. All these projects are now in limbo thanks to the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

India’s stance on the Taliban government is not yet clear and, in all probability, will depend on how the international community responds to a Taliban government.  As per the latest updates, India has evacuated all its diplomatic staff out of Afghanistan. 

Until there is clarity on recognition of the Taliban government and India’s relations with the new regime, uncertainty is expected about the future of these projects. In addition to the monetary value of its investments in Afghanistan, India is also concerned about the strategic alliance with Afghanistan. 

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