India hopes to complete Af House building soon

Delay escalates cost from Rs 296.45 cr to Rs 710 cr

India hopes to finish its flagship project in Afghanistan--construction of the new building for the Afghan Parliament--well before the US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) withdraws from combat operation in the war-wrecked country by 2014. About 60 per cent of work is yet to be completed.

The foundation stone of the new building for the Afghan Parliament was laid during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Kabul on August 29, 2005, but it took almost four years to commence the construction. Though the project was to be completed by December 2011, India now hopes to finish constructing the landmark icon of democracy in Afghanistan by June 2013. The delay caused a 2.39 times’ escalation in the cost of the project. 

The ISAF is set to withdraw from combat operations in Afghanistan by 2014, leaving only a residual US counter-terrorism troops in the country, primarily to support the Afghan National Security Force.

As resurgence of Taliban cast a cloud of uncertainty over the security situation that would unfold after the withdrawal of international forces, New Delhi is understood to be in touch with authorities in Kabul to speed up the construction work.

The government assigned the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) to construct the Parliament building in Kabul and the agency had in January 2006 estimated the cost at
Rs 296.45 crore.

But, inordinate delay escalated the estimated expenditure to Rs 710 crore in December 2008, when the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) got the Union Cabinet’s approval for the tendered cost of the project.

The work on the site commenced in 2009. In a note to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs, the MEA reported that approximately 40 per cent of works had been completed by last June.

Though deteriorating security situation slowed down other Indian projects in Afghanistan, construction of the new Parliament building in relatively secure capital city was rather delayed due to changes sought by the Afghan government in the layout and design of the edifice.

The MEA cited the delay by the Afghan government in handing over the site to the CPWD and the changes it sought in the layout plan to match the centre-line of the new parliament building with the Darul Aman Palace, which was built during the reign of King Amanullah Khan in 1920s and was shelled and ruined by Afghan Mujahideen in 1988-89 after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan.

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