India’s role in rebuilding Afghanistan

In spite of hurdles imposed by Pakistan, India has played a meaningful role in Afghanistan

Natwar Singh, India’s foreign minister, is on his way to Kabul. In spite of relatively few high-level and high-profile engagements between the two countries, India’s role in the rebuilding of Afghanistan is significant.

India spends in Afghanistan: New Delhi currently spends around $100 million on various projects and $70 million on the reconstruction of a 213-kilometer road from Zaranj to Delaram in Afghanistan. This ‘new silk route’ road is the result of a project between India, Iran and Afghanistan to develop trade with Central Asian countries such as Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. The route will utilise the Chabahar port in Iran to send goods to Afghanistan and to Central Asian countries. New Delhi has gifted three Airbus aircraft along with crew to support Arian Afghan Airlines, and more than 270 Indian buses currently ply in Kabul, Kandahar and Herat. In 2002, 18 Afghan judges and lawyers were trained at the Indian Law Institute in New Delhi. An IT specialist has been deputed to the Afghan government. In the foreign minister’s office in Kabul, a local area network with Internet access via an Indian company has been set up while Afghan bureaucrats are being trained in the use of computers.

Three Reserve Bank of India officials were deputed to the Central Bank of Afghanistan in July 2002. A team of 30 Indian doctors treats thousands of patients every week while $4 million has been allotted for the rehabilitation of the Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health. New Delhi will gift 300 vehicles to the Afghan National Army once Pakistan allows their transit. Pakistan allows Afghan exports to India via Wahga, but not vice versa. Thus, every day, a large numbers of trucks cross Wahga carrying dry fruit and carpets but return empty. No country is spending in Afghanistan as much as India, except for the United States, which spends $900 million annually. So far, India’s efforts in Afghanistan have the backing of the United States and Russia. Indian analysts say India’s interests are two-fold: it does not want the Taliban to resurface; and it wants the new Afghan security structure to be free of anti-India elements.[Khaled Ahmed/The Friday Times]

To prevent India from building influence in Afghanistan, Pakistan has refused to allow land-based transit into Afghanistan. The irony is that after a more than a decade of war and destruction it brought on the Afghan people thanks to its attempt at colonisation by proxy, Pakistan continues to hold the development of Afghanistan hostage to its policy towards India.

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