India commits to provide $1 billion for development in Afghanistan

PM Modi meets Afghani PM Ghani.

NEW DELHI: PM Narendra Modi today, committing to more development projects in Afghanistan, announced it would extend one billion dollars of development aid, with a focus on both capacity building in the social sector as well as clean energy projects of hydel-power and solar energy.

The committed one billion dollars in assistance add to roughly two billion dollars India has already provided to Afghanistan in the past decade, will be used for “capacity and capability building” in education, health, agriculture, skill development, empowerment of women, energy, infrastructure and strengthening of democratic institutions, a joint statement issued during the working visit of President Ghani after he met PM Modi in Delhi. The supply of medicines and increasing airflights between India and Afghanistan were also discussed as areas of importance.

Both leaders called upon “the concerned” countries to “put an end to all sponsorship, support, safe havens and sanctuaries to terrorists including for those who target Afghanistan and India”.

“Both leaders reaffirmed their resolve to counter terrorism and strengthen security and defence cooperation as envisaged in the India-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreement,” the statement added.

However, the two countries did not make any specific reference to military assistance that Afghanistan has requested from India. During a visit to Delhi a few weeks ago, Afghan Army chief General Qadam Shah Shahim had put in requests for more helicopters, tanks, artillery and ammunition, as well as training for more Afghan forces. Despite being asked repeatedly on the specifics of what India, who has traditionally been wary of supplying Afghanistan lethal military hardware, would provide Afghanistan, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar said he had nothing to add beyond the joint statement.

India and Afghanistan also signed an Extradition Treaty to facilitate exchange of wanted terrorists and criminals as well an agreement on mutual legal assistance, which had been delayed since April 2015, when President Ghani had last visited.

Apart from the landmark treaty on extradition, the two sides also sealed agreements on peaceful uses of outer space and on cooperation on civil and commercial matters. The meeting between the two heads also sought faster implementation of the trilateral agreement among Afghanistan, Iran and India sealed in May 2016 which is aimed at creating a network of regional connectivity around Iran’s Chahbahar port.

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