India Steps Up Presence In Afghanistan, Signs Major Dam Pact With Kabul

India has reiterated its commitment towards a “development partnership” with Afghanistan amid rising violence and reports of delayed withdrawal of US troops.

On Tuesday, the two sides signed an agreement for the construction of the Lalandar ‘Shatoot’ Dam, aimed at providing drinking water to two million people in Kabul.

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The memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and his Afghan counterpart Hanif Atmar, in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President of Afghanistan Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, a press statement from India’s Ministry of External Affairs said.

The project holds significance as it will be providing drinking water to two million people living in Kabul, Afghanistan’s charge de affairs in New Delhi Tahir Qadiry was quoted as saying in media reports. He termed the signing of the agreement as “historic” in a tweet.

The Lalander [Shatoot] Dam would also provide irrigation water to nearby areas, rehabilitate the existing irrigation and drainage network, aid in flood protection and management efforts in the area, and also provide electricity to the region, the ministry’s statement said.

The project estimated to cost $236 million will be completed within three years and will facilitate the irrigation of 4,000 hectares of land in the Charasiab and Khairabad districts, as per reports. It will hold 146 million cubic meters of potable water.

While this is the second dam major dam being built by India in Afghanistan, after the India-Afghanistan Friendship Dam [Salma Dam], New Delhi is also taking up 150 community projects worth $80 million in the war-torn nation.

India’s Commitment To Rebuilding Afganistan 

Over the years, when Afghanistan has remained under conflict, India has been a true friend with a $3 billion development portfolio for Afghanistan. More than 400 projects across all 34 provinces of Afghanistan have been completed, India’s External Affairs Ministry says.

After the signing of the US-Taliban deals and even amid the ongoing Doha talks, India has reiterated support for the Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, and Afghan-controlled peace process.

During the virtual summit with Ashraf Ghani, PM Modi expressed concern over increasing violence in Afghanistan and called for a comprehensive ceasefire for ending the hostilities.  “We are concerned over increasing violence in Afghanistan….we support a comprehensive ceasefire in the country,” Modi said.

The initiative from New Delhi has come at a time when there has been a rise in terror by the Taliban. President Joe Biden’s administration has begun to review the US-Taliban agreement which was signed on February 29, 2020.

Dwindling Peace Talks

With reports of the Taliban not complying with the conditions of the peace deal, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has said on Tuesday that US troops will not leave Afghanistan by May as mentioned in the deal.

The situation in Afghanistan remains grim as the Afghan Republic and the Taliban negotiators in Doha have not met in over the last 19 days. The peace talks, which had started in September 2020, had resumed on 5 January 2021 following a break.

As per the US-Taliban Peace Deal, the US troops were supposed to withdraw completely but currently, about 2,500 US troops are still there in the country.

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