India on Tuesday announced major commitments towards reconstruction and rehabilitation at the 2020 Afghanistan Conference that was organised in Geneva November 23 and 24 through video conferencing.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar led the Indian delegation. He said that India and Afghanistan concluded the agreement to construct the Shahtoot dam, which would provide safe drinking water to 2 million residents of Kabul city.
“I am happy to announce today an agreement with Afghanistan for building the Shahtoot dam, which would provide safe drinking water to 2 million residents of Kabul city. It builds on the 202-km Phul-e-Khumri transmission line of 2009 through which will provide power to the city. India will also launch Phase-IV of High Impact Community Development Projects in Afghanistan, which include around 150 projects worth US$ 80 million,” said Jaishankar.
As neighbours, the Indian minister emphasised the “strategic partnership” and long-term commitment to the development of Afghanistan.
“Our development portfolio of more than US$ 3 billion for Afghanistan is aimed at building capacities and capabilities of Afghan nationals as well as its institutions with a view to improve governance and public service. There is no part of Afghanistan today untouched by our 400 plus projects, spread across all the 34 provinces of Afghanistan,” he said.
Speaking at 2020 Afghanistan pledging conference on 24 November, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani said he would like to “thank India for its commitment of over $2 billion”,
“Large infrastructure projects completed include the construction of 218 km road from Delaram to Zaranj (on Iranian border which provides alternate connectivity for Afghanistan through Iran; IndiaAfghanistan friendship dam; and the Afghan Parliament building which was inaugurated in 2015, a symbol of Afghan democracy,” added Jaishankar.
More than 65,000 Afghan students have studied in India. “Afghanistan’s growth has been constrained by its landlocked geography and highlighted India’s efforts to provide an alternate connectivity through Chabahar port and a dedicated Air Freight Corridor between India and Afghanistan,” read the Ministry of External Affairs press release after the conference.
“While I speak 15,000 students are presently studying in India. 3,000 scholarships so far have been granted to young Afghan women to pursue higher studies in India. Going beyond basic education, we also provided vocational training to a large number of women in Afghanistan. This number shall increase every year with our long term commitment to help rebuild Afghanistan,” said Jaishankar.
During his address, Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani said, “I’d like to thank India and Iran for the Chahbahar corridor in related sea corridor as well as the air corridor.”
It may be noted that India’s humanitarian assistance of 75,000 tonnes of wheat to strengthen the food security of Afghanistan during the Covid pandemic has been transported through Chabahar port.
For India, apart from trade and connectivity, a sustainable, stable future for Afghanistan cannot be achieved unless there is a permanent solution to the ongoing conflict and rights of women and minorities are respected.
Speaking on the issue, Jaishankar said, “India has invested heavily in peace and development in Afghanistan. We strongly believe that the gains of the last two decades must be preserved and the interests of minorities, women and vulnerable sections must be ensured.”
Expressing “grave” concern over the increasing level of “violence” in Afghanistan, he said, “While we support all efforts to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan, India calls for an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire. We also believe that the peace process must be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled.”