New Delhi, July 15 (IANS) Even as the US, China and Russia included Pakistan in their talks with the Taliban on the Afghanistan peace process, leaving out India, New Delhi on Monday quietly went ahead with its development partnership with Kabul, inking 10 MoUs for building roads, buildings, schools, markets places across 10 Afghan provinces.
“India & Afghanistan further expanded Development Partnership cooperation by signing 10 MoUs of people centric projects’ implementation in 10 Afghan provinces. MoUs signed by Ambassador @vkumar1969 ,Economy Minister @mmmastoor & 10 line Ministers in presence of CEO Dr Abdullah Abdullah,” the Indian embassy in Kabul tweeted.
These projects are funded under the High Impact Community Development (HICDP) scheme implemented by India in Afghanistan.
“Since 2001, India has undertaken projects and programmes for over $2 billion. In 2016, India pledged an additional $1 billion over the next five years as part of its renewed commitment to assist Afghanistan emerge as a stable, secure, peaceful, united and prosperous and pluralistic nation,” said a press statement from the embassy
Since 2005, India has committed over $200 million to support over 550 projects throughout Afghanistan under the HICDP scheme.
The projects for which MoUs were inked on Monday are related to construction of buildings for market places, cultural halls, classrooms, jirga halls, administrative offices, laying of roads and water supply networks. The projects are to be implemented in the provinces of Daikundi, Panjshir, Ghazni, Uruzgan, Nangahar, Khost, Farah, Maidan Wardak, and Takhar.
The Pentagon has in a statement confirmed that India has transferred eight Mi-35 attack helicopters to the Afghan Air Force.
The Pentagon report adds that the transfer of Mi-35 attack choppers “marks a significant departure from India’s previous policy of providing only non-lethal military assistance. Pakistani sensitivities towards Indian involvement in the country ultimately limited the assistance.”
“Additionally, the Indian military provides procurement and training support to help professionalize the Afghan military and to improve its vehicle maintenance capabilities,” it added, Khaama news reported.
It also said that India has traditionally had strong ties with Afghanistan and remains the largest regional donor to the country ($3 billion since 2001).
According to Pentagon, Indian aid to Afghanistan focuses primarily on four main categories: humanitarian assistance, major infrastructure projects, small and community-based projects, and education and capacity development.
The Pentagon said India desires a stable Afghanistan that does not harbour terrorists who could target Indian interests and who do not have close ties with Pakistan.
Pentagon said there are no reports indicating that India has taken any serious action during the reporting period that would affect the situation in Afghanistan.
The Pentagon said: “In the event of a US drawdown in Afghanistan, India likely will attempt to continue its support to Afghanistan and try to limit Taliban, Pakistani, and Chinese influence. A significant deterioration of security conditions in Afghanistan, however, may adversely affect the ability of India to provide aid.”
Representatives of China, Russia, and the US held their third consultation on the Afghan peace process in Beijing on July 10-11 after which they requested Pakistan to join for a surprise quadrilateral meeting.
The invitation to Pakistan comes ahead of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s first visit to the US starting July 21 during which he will hold talks with US President Donald Trump, when the Afghan peace process is expected to be discussed.
The US has also proposed that Afghanistan’s presidential elections, scheduled for September 28, should be postponed until the peace process with the Taliban is completed.
India has maintained that the Afghan peace process should be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned.