Indian policy is to encircle Pakistan through gaining a strong foot-hold in Afghanistan and the surest way it has adopted is to pour money under the pretext of rebuilding the country.
It is ironic that Afghanistan that was considered a western baby is now a preferential destination for India to invest in its reconstruction and development. It is very clear that West is primarily instrumental in propping up India to get close to Afghanistan as much as possible despite being aware of strong Pakistani objection to this exercise.
The Indian government has pledged to begin a New Development Partnership aimed at joint launching and implementation of 116 high impact of development projects across Afghanistan. The announcement came on the heels of the suggestion of Trump administration to Modi government to take deep interest in improving and solidifying Afghanistan’s economic situation.
India is already providing assistance to Afghanistan in health, education, and other human resource developments. The Indian financial portfolio of assistance to Afghanistan is estimated to be $3 billion since 2001. Indians are constructing housing for refugees and building a polyclinic in Mazar-e-Sharif along with a gypsum board manufacturing plant in Kabul so that value-added industry is promoted.
To facilitate movement of goods and services to Iranian border India is constructing a 218 kilometers long road from Zaranj to Delaram that will assist Afghanistan to be a part of international trade and develop its economy
India is very active in increasing its involvement in fulfilling needs of Afghanistan and has been involved in multifarious activities: construction of the parliament building in Kabul at a cost of $178 million, building Pul-i-Khumri to Kabul power line costing $120 million, Salal Dam power project costing $130 million and construction of Delaram-Zaranj road at the cost of $150 million. In addition India has spent $321 million on providing food assistance to primary school children, construction and rehabilitation of schools as well as providing 250,000 tons of wheat and corn.
The new partnership entails financial, technical and manpower assistance predominantly in infrastructural projects such as constructing dams, roads, and power transmission lines among other things. Along with Kabul these projects will be fanned over 31 provinces across the country. The salient feature of the projects to be undertaken is that through the auspices of New Development Partnership they will strengthen Afghan-India axis.
India will build and develop Shahtoot Dam and drinking water facility at an estimated cost of $260 million. The dam will be built on Kabul River and will provide clean drinking water to residents of Kabul. India has in 2016 built the Friendship Dam with the potential of irrigating 75,000 hectares of land and generate 42 MW of power. India will also help in building a strong water supply network for Charikar city.
To facilitate movement of goods and services to Iranian border India is constructing a 218 kilometers long road from Zaranj to Delaram that will assist Afghanistan to be a part of international trade and develop its economy. In addition India is laying down a 220KV DC transmission line and a 220/110/20 KV sub-station at Chimtala.
India is also assisting in upgrading telephone exchanges in 11 Afghanistan’s provinces and expanding its national TV network. This will be done by providing an uplink from Kabul and downlinks in all 34 provincial capitals for greater integration of the country.
Since the last seventeen years India has accommodated 10,000 Afghan students in its academic institutions on ICCR scholarships and some 7,000 of them returned home and often express longing for their stay in India. Meanwhile, many mid-career officers in the Afghan government have been trained for acquiring proficiency through technical capacity programmes sponsored by Indian government. Moreover some 8, 000 Afghan students are pursuing self-financed degrees in different fields across India.
The growing air connectivity between the two countries now witnesses four to five flights operating daily between Kabul and Delhi, bringing to India nearly 1,000 Afghans, many of them medical tourists, seeking treatment in New Delhi’s hospitals.
India is already providing assistance to Afghanistan in health, education, and other human resource developments
It is estimated that the mountainous regions of Afghanistan are the repository of mineral resources estimated to range between $1 to $3 trillion. Indian-Afghan connection is also taking advantage of mineral excavation and its commercial use.
Indian companies Avtar Arts and Parash Stones are importing Lapis Lazuli, Malachite and Marble blocks in huge quantities from Afghanistan using Chahbahar port. The marble industry is one of the fastest growing sectors of Afghanistan’s economy with the majority of the exports going to India. Currently 40 marbles sites are being quarried and over a hundred more have been identified and catalogued.
The most worrying aspect is the growing presence of Indian influence in Afghanistan’s security considerations as the West prefers to get Afghan Defence Forces personnel trained in India. Pakistan is aware that communism crept in Afghanistan owing to the then Afghan monarchical practice of getting their troops trained in Russia and consequently is worried about the Indian orientation of Afghan security apparatus.
Raja Nazeem ul Amin is Minister/Vice Chairman Board of Investment