Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Afghanistan on Friday, December 25, after his visit to Moscow. During his visit to Kabul, he inaugurated Afghanistan’s new parliament building, which is funded by India and handed over three of four Mi-25 helicopters to Afghanistan.
The new parliament building costs an estimated $90 million, and boasts the largest dome in Asia. It is a fusion of Mughal and modern architecture and is located near Darulaman.
The three helicopters given to Afghanistan were delivered to Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr. Abdullah at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. A fourth chopper will be handed over to Afghanistan soon. The helicopters will be used in fighting against insurgents in different parts of the country. The helicopters’ delivery is reflective of India’s defense cooperation with Afghanistan, whose air force is currently in the process of being developed.
Regarding the issue of regional cooperation in war on terror, Modi said, “We know that Afghans success needs cooperation of all neighbors and all of us in the region. India, Pakistan, Iran and others must unite and cooperate for this common purpose… We are working to enable Afghanistan to be connected with other countries in order to help it become a connecting hub for South Asia”.
India has always endeavored to follow the policy of cooperation and support in its relation with Afghanistan. It has always pursued economic development, political stability and peace and tranquility in the country.
People of Afghanistan also consider India as its friend. The public opinion in Afghanistan is highly in support of greater Indian influence in the country, and it is because of the fact that through most part of its relation with Afghanistan, India has been a true friend.
After the overthrow of the Taliban, India established diplomatic relations with the newly established democratic government, provided aid and participated in the reconstruction efforts. India has provided $650–750 million in humanitarian and economic aid, which makes it the largest provider of aid to Afghanistan in the region. India’s support and collaboration are mostly in the areas of rebuilding of air links, power plants and investing in health and education sectors as well as helping to train Afghan civil servants, diplomats and security forces. India has also keen interest in the development of supply lines of electricity, oil and natural gas, and, also providing scholarships to Afghan Students.
The Indian Army’s Border Roads Organisation constructed a major road in 2009 in the remote province of Nimroz, which connected Delaram to Zaranj. This has proved to be a reliable alternative route for the duty-free movement of goods through the Chabahar port in Iran to Afghanistan. One of India’s key strategies in Afghanistan is to build up transportation links that can help Afghan economy’s transportation links.
During Hamid Karzai’s visit to India in April 2006, three memorandums of understanding (MOUs) for strengthening cooperation in the fields of rural development, education and standardization between the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and Afghan National Standardization Authority were signed between Afghanistan and India. An agreement providing $50 million to promote bilateral businesses between Afghanistan and India was also signed during the visit of the former Afghan Foreign Minister Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta, between 29 June – 1 July in 2006. During the same year, India raised its aid package to Afghanistan from $150 million to $750 million.
During the 15th SAARC summit in Colombo, India pledged another $450 million alongside a further $750 million already pledged for ongoing and forthcoming projects. In August 2008, the then President Hamid Karzai visited New Delhi. This visit further strengthened bilateral relations, and Prime Minister Singh pledged further aid for Afghanistan. India’s pledge to rebuild Afghanistan reached a total of $2 billion in May 2011 after Manmohan Singh visited Kabul for a two-day visit.
India seeks to expand its economic presence in Afghanistan in the post withdrawal era. In particular, it wants to improve transport connectivity and economic collaboration with countries in Central and South Asia. More such projects are likely to come up, which includes setting up Iron ore mines, a 6 MTPA steel plant (by SAIL—Steel Authority of India Limited), an 800 MW power plant, Hydro-electric power projects, transmission lines, roads etc.
In short, India has played a significant role in the reconstruction and rehabilitation process in Afghanistan. India’s extensive developmental assistance programme, which equals around $2 billion, is an indicator of its abiding commitment to peace, tranquility and prosperity in Afghanistan during this critical juncture of security and governance transition. This makes India one of the leading donor nations to Afghanistan, and by far the largest among the regional countries. India also realizes the fact that there can be stability in Afghanistan only if all the major actors and countries have a stake in its stability, development and growth. Realizing this India has been increasing efforts to attract regional and trans-regional investment into Afghanistan that provides a reliable alternative to the dominant narrative of extremism and offers job opportunities to its population, by initiating events like the Delhi Investment Summit on Afghanistan in June 2012. Recognizing that the region holds the key to peace in Afghanistan, India has an important role in confidence building measures in the region in accordance to the Istanbul Process.
India’s support for Afghanistan is of immense importance and the people of Afghanistan also realize this fact and they wish that India should keep its assistance continue until it is able to stand on its own.