There is a sense of an imminent threat to India now that the Taliban has captured Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan, and entered the parliament. As the Taliban has taken over the country, New Delhi's efforts in the region over the last 20 years may be in vain.
Over the last few years, the Taliban fighters joined by Pakistanis in Afghanistan in large numbers, have been instructed by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to target the Indian-built assets in the war-torn country.
The Indian government has invested over $3 billion in the Afghanistan reconstruction effort since the last two decades. The 218-km road between Delaram and Zaranj Salma dam and the Afghan Parliament building which was inaugurated in 2015, are the biggest symbols of Indian contribution for the Afghan people.
Taliban could now be expected to play a larger role in Afghan politics and this is hardly desirable for a country like India. Indian assets in Afghanistan have been targeted by the Haqqani group, a major Taliban faction over the years. India has also been able to invest in Afghanistan’s future partially because of the presence of U.S.-led troops and the relative stability it brought. With this stability now shaken to the core, India needs to immediately reconsider its priorities where investing in Afghanistan is considered.
Here is a look at all the major investments and contributions India has made thus far in rebuilding Afghanistan which now run the risk of being targeted by the Taliban forces either in retaliation for historic animosities or as a challenge for upcoming ones.
1. The New Parliament Building
6 years ago, as a gesture of friendship, India had gifted a newly built Parliament building to Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. The building was built by India at a cost of $90 million. Now, after the collapse of Afghan government, Taliban insurgents barged into the Parliament building in Kabul.
2. Restoration of Stor Palace, Kabul
The century-old palace was restored with the help of Indian aid at an estimated cost of $7mn (£ 5.33mn). India has been a key partner in the rebuilding of the war-torn nation of Afghanistan and since 2002 has committed about $2bn towards socio-economic developmental projects.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had inaugurated the renovated Stor Palace in Afghan capital Kabul pledging that 1.2 billion Indians are with Afghanistan in its difficult times. He opened the palace via video conference from New Delhi. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani also attended the ceremony from Kabul.
"Let me assure the people of Afghanistan that in your quest to build a prosperous Afghanistan and to bring peace, security and stability to your society, the 1.25 billion people of India will always be on your side," added Modi. The Stor Palace, located at the heart of Kabul, was built during the times of Emir Habibullah Khan at the early 20th century. The facility has witnessed several structural damages during the conflict through the decades.
Ghani responded by saying thanks to the Indian government for the aid and said Kabul will always extend its helping hand to New Delhi. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani also expressed his gratitude towards India, saying, "I express my most sincere appreciation for Government of India and its people. We are ready to spare no effort in protecting peace, overcome terror and extremism and work for prosperity of our nations."
3. Habibia High School
Habibia High School located in southwestern Kabul, Afghanistan has educated many of the former and current Afghan elite, including President Ashraf Ghani and musician Ahmad Zahir. It was founded by King Habibullah Khan in 1903. It is situated in the south of the city in a district known as Carteh Seh and had suffered severe damage during the civil war of the 1990s between the different mujahideen factions who had ousted the communist government of Mohammad Najibullah in 1992.
The Indian government funded the rebuilding of the school in 2003, it committed $5 million for the restoration project. The restoration was completed in two years and the school was reopened in August 2005, by Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh. Over 18000 students are studying in three different shifts. The undergraduate enrollment is approximately 2000 students.
4. Pul e Khumri transmission line: 220kV transmission line to Kabul along with power sub-stations
The 202-km transmission line laid by Power Grid transmits 200 MW of electricity from Uzbekistan. India has provided $111 million for the project, out of the total $550 million it had committed for reconstruction activities in the war-torn country. Indian engineers completed the most dangerous task of surveying the transmission route passing through the heavily-mined Hindukush ranges on both sides of Salang that had been the site of some of the most deadly battles fought during the past 30 years.
5. Salma Dam now known as Afghan-India Friendship Dam
Afghan-India Friendship Dam (AIFD), formerly Salma Dam, is a hydroelectric and irrigation dam project located on the Hari River in Chishti Sharif District of Herat Province in western Afghanistan. Since this project is funded and constructed by the Government of India as a part of the Indian aid project, the Afghan cabinet renamed the Salma Dam to the Afghan-India Friendship Dam in a gesture of gratitude to strengthen relations between the two countries.
The hydroelectric plant produces 42 MW of power in addition to providing irrigation for 75,000 hectares of farmland (stabilising the existing irrigation of 35,000 hectares and development of irrigation facilities to an additional 40,000 hectares of land).
In 2006, India committed to funding the completion of the Salma Dam at an estimated cost of US$ 275 million. In January 2013, the Indian cabinet approved revised cost of ₹ 1,457 crores (US$ 273.3 million) for the completion of the project and declared it would be completed in December 2014, or two years behind the previous schedule. On 26 July 2015 the dam began to impound its reservoir.
The dam was inaugurated on 4 June 2016 by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
6. Indira Gandhi Institute for Child Health
India also restored the Indira Gandhi Institute for Child Health built with India's help in 1985, the largest paediatric hospital in Afghanistan.'Indian Medical Missions' holds free consultations camps in several areas. Also, India built healthcare centres in border provinces of Badakhshan, Balkh, Kandahar, Khost, Kunar, Nangarhar, Nimruz, Nooristan, Paktia and Paktika
7. INSTC trade route
The International North-South Transport Corridor is a 7,200-km-long multi-mode transport project for moving freight among India, Iran, Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia and Europe.
Recently, in March, earlier this year, India proposed the inclusion of Chabahar port in the INSTC route, with Jaishankar expressing hope that member states involved with the INSTC will agree on expanding membership of this project.
The location of the Chabahar port has strategic advantage and high potential to provide connectivity among India, Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and other Commonwealth of Independent States countries, and boost trade. Located in the Sistan-Balochistan province on the energy-rich Iran's southern coast, the port can be easily accessed from India's western coast, bypassing Pakistan.
The government of India, recognising the importance of regional connectivity, made a landmark decision to undertake an overseas port investment in Chabahar, Jaishankar said. While this project had been under discussion for some time, it was during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Iran in 2016 that a trilateral agreement to establish an International Transport and Transit Corridor was signed by India, Iran and Afghanistan, he said.
Jaishankar said the transport and transit corridor is intended to ensure an unhindered flow of commerce throughout the region and to create a safe, and reliable route to trade initially with Afghanistan, and thereafter with Central Asia.
8. Zaranj-Delaram highway
The 218-kilometre highway built by the Border Roads Organisation is located close to the Afghanistan-Iran border. The 150-million highway is of strategic importance to India as it connects Delaram to the northeast of Zaranj with all major regions such as Kandahar, Ghazni, Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif, and Herat.
Built at a cost of Rs 600 crore, the highway is a symbol of India's developmental work in this country and was handed over to Afghan authorities by then external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee in the presence of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta.
In addition to the highway, the Indian construction team also built 58 kilometres of inner-city roads, 40 kilometres in Zaranj, 10kilometres in Gurguri and 8 kilometres connecting Gurguri to Razai.
Apart from the above landmark contributions, India has also gifted 400 buses and 200 mini-buses, 105 utility vehicles for municipalities, 285 military vehicles for the Afghan National Army and 10 ambulances for government hospitals in five cities according to the MEA.
Source: Firstpost, Wikipedia, Hindustan Times, News18, agencies, Getty