India and Afghanistan
During his visit, Dr Singh announced a fresh Indian aid package of 500 million US dollars for Afghanistan with focus on social sector, agiculture, capacity-building and infrastructure projects.
This was Dr. Singh’s second visit to Afghanistan since 2005. The Prime Minister described India and Afghanistan as “partners in progress”.
India and Afghanistan have established a strong relationship based on their historical and civilisational relations; a relationship that has gained strength from India’s role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. The principal objective of India’s development partnership is to assist in building indigenous Afghan capacity and institutionsand to ensure that development touches all the regions of Afghanistan and encompasses all the sectors of development.. India has played an active role in ‘ the development of Afghanistan based on the understanding that social and economic development in Afghanistan is crucial to regional stability. India’s pledged assistance to Afghanistan stands at a little under U.S.’ $2 billion, making it the fifth largest bilateral donor in Afghanistan. This is all the impressive considering the fact that India is not known on the world stage as a traditional donor. All the projects are undertaken in partnership with the Afghan government, in consonance with the Afghanistan National Development Strategy.
Mutual Desire to Strengthen Cooperation: At the invitation of President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh paid a two-day official visit on May 12, 2011 to Afghanistan. During the visit, Dr. Manmohan Singh held detailed discussions with President Karzai on a wide range of bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual interest.
Dr. Singh held talks with the Afghan leadership on several bilateral, regional and international issues including ter-. rorism and stepped up assistance to the war-torn country.
During his visit, Dr Singh announced a fresh Indian aid package of 500 million US dollars for Afghanistan with focus on social sector, agiculture, capacity-building and infrastructure projects. India already, has a commitment of 15 billion US dollars in Afghanistan. The new package, which will take Indian aid to 2 billion USD, will consist of specific projects and schemes and other initiatives that will be developed in consultation with the Afghan government.
Both the leaders also underlined their shared commitment to combating terrorism that threatens both countries as well as the region and the world as a whole Dr. Singh addressed a joint session of the Afghan Parliament during which he denounced terrorism and extremism, saying such ideologies provide no answers to problems of the people and their flames should not be allowed to be fanned once again. In his 25-minute speech which was applauded repeatedly by some 350 Afghan MPs, he said the aspirations of the region for growth and prosperity cannot be realised unless there is peace and tranquility that would allow people to live and work in honour and dignity.
National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and Prime Minister’s special envoy to Afghanistan Satinder Lambah and other senior officials accompanied Dr. Singh. Aiming to strengthen their cooperation in the areas of security and combating terrorism, both the countries
also elevated their bilateral ties to a strategic partnership, which they affirmed was not directed against any other state or group of states.
Additional Assistance to Afghanistan
India’s existing commitments to the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan involve a financial outlay of close to US $ 1.5 billion. A fresh package of US $ 500 million has been announced during the visit of Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh to Afghanistan, to underline India’s undiluted commitment to the efforts of the Government and people of Afghanistan to build a peaceful, prosperous and stable country .
The following were the aid commitments made during the visit: A fresh commitment of US $ 100 million for the third phase of India’s programme of Small Development Projects, over and above the previous pledge of US$ 20 million;
- Donation of 1000 buses for the Kabul and other municipalities with provision for maintenance support, training and infrastructure; m A medical package consisting of the treatment of Afghan patients in select disciplines and hospitals in India over the next three years to be implemented through the Afghan Ministry of Public Health; the rehabilitation and professional up-gradation of the National Malaria and Leishmaniasis Centre of Afghanistan; and the upgradation of the Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health, including the neo-natal and maternal care unit;
- Upgradation of the agricultural department at the Kabul University to an agricultural university and providing scholarships for the study of agricultural sciences;
- Donation of 500 tractors for Afghan farmers; Provision of seeds and other assistance for the agricultural sector;
- The early finalization of a US$ 50 million Buyers Credit Line to promote exports and attract Indian business to Afghanistan;
- A grant of US$ 10 million for preservation and revival of Afghanistan’s archaeological and cultural heritage and cultural exchanges;
- A giiint of US $ 4 million to the Government of Afghanistan for the restoration of the historic Stor Palace in Kabul;
- Assistance in setting up an Afghan Institute of Mining;
- An enhancement of our ICCR scholarships for students from 675 to 1000 with ‘a special focus on encouraging women students to avail of the additional slots;
- Assistance in setting up of a computer laboratory at Habibia School;
- Supporting the Second Phase of the Confederation of Indian Industry.(CII) Skills Development Pro‑gramme for providing vocationaltraining to Afghan nationals;m Establishment of a Jawaharlal Nehru Chair of Indian Studies at Kabul University;
- Reiterating the commitment to donate 250,000 tonnes of wheat to Afghanistan to meet, its requirements this year.
This was Dr. Singh’s second visit to Afghanistan since 2005. The Prime Minister described India and Afghanistan as “partners in progress”. The presidential palace houses the president’s office, his residence, and the office of the Afghan National Security Adviser. The presidential complex also houses the home of Afghanistan’s last King Zahir Shah, where Prime Minister Singh was stayed. Dr. Singh is the first foreign head of government for whom the late king Zahir Shah’s home has been thrown open.
Both Dr. Singh and Mr. Karzai seem to hope that in the downstream of the killing of Osama bin Laden, there could be a new awareness among regional powers, especially Pakistan, about the dangerous ramifications of terrorism. Dr. Singh called for a thorough probe into bin Laden’s scandalous stay in the cantonment town of Abbottabad, but he also drew a distinction between India’s approach to tackling terrorism and America’s methods. This must be counted as one of his most significant remarks made from Afghan soil. Its resonance for regional security cannot be overlooked.
Dr. Singh conclusively buried the notions regarding Indian military involvement in Afghanistan. This may trigger despondency among our chest-thumping hardline pundifs, but Afghanistan is a classic situation where fools rush in, while angels fear to tread. Below the threshold of military involvement, India can help stabilise the Afghan situation. The primary benchmark ought to be the needs and demands of the Kabul government for capacity-building. India’s offer to provide training for Afghan police officers is a big initiative, as in a post-settlement scenario, the police force is going to play an even important role in enhancing security than the standing army.
Dr. Singh’s decision to have an overnight stay in Kabul was imbued with the political symbolism that India has the grit to follow-up on its commitments. It would have gone down well in the local perceptions of India as a benign neighbour and steadfast ally who cares deeply for the sufferings of the Afghan people. Equally, his address to the Afghan parliament was a reiteration of the bonds with the Afghan nation that transcend the ebb and flow of current history and politics.
India’s programmes cover four broad areas – infrastructure projects, humanitarian assistance, small and community based development projects, and education and capacity development. The 218 km road project from Zaranj to Delaram in south-western Afghanistan to facilitate movement of goods and services to the Iranian border and, onward, to the Chahbahar Port was inaugurated by the Afghan President and Indian External Affairs Minister in January 2009.
India constructed the 202 kms long 220 kV DC transmission line from Pul-eKhumri to Kabul and a 220/110/20 kV sub-station at Chimtala, bringing Uzbek electricity and lighting up the city of Kabul throughout the year. This project was completed in collaboration with the Afghan Government, ADB and the World Bank, with inputs from USAID and international energy firms, and is an outstanding example of regional and international cooperation in Afghanistan. The other two major infrastructure projects, the construction of the Afghan Parliament in Kabul and the construction of Salma Darn power project in Herat province, are under progress and would be completed by 2012.
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