Afghan mission becoming a burden for India

However, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is likely to assure President Hamid Karzai on Monday that India would continue to do its bit for rebuilding Afghanistan even after the US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) leaves the country.

With the security situation deteriorating in Afghanistan; not only the costs of India’s projects in the war-ravaged country are sky-rocketing; but it is also becoming difficult to keep to the work-schedule set for them.

Though the Indian government had allocated Rs 442.05 crore for its reconstruction efforts in the 2009-10 Budget, actual expenditure in the last fiscal was much less than that as most of the projects had got delayed due to the worsening security situation. The government could spend only Rs 100.02 crore – just 22.63 per cent of the total allocation – in Afghanistan till December 2009. The fluid economic and security situation has also resulted in steep rise in the cost of the projects. For instance, the estimated cost of a hydro-power project at Herat in western Afghanistan has gone up by almost 242 per cent.

In response to a query from the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs, the government stated that most of the Indian projects in Afghanistan had suffered delays and resultant less-than-projected expenditure in the last financial year “due to the security situation” in the conflict-ridden country.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had in fact, substantially reduced the allocation for projects in Afghanistan from Rs 442.05 crore to Rs 287 crore in the Revised Estimate of 2009-10. “The deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan and delay in procuring material adversely affected the timely completion of projects thereby affecting their payment schedule,” the MEA explained to the Parliamentary Standing Committee. 

The Water and Power Consultancy Services (WAPCOS) is building the Salma Dam Hydropower Project in Herat. The WAPCOS had first submitted a revised cost estimate of Rs 498.93 crore against original approved cost of Rs 351.87 crore. The PSU under the Ministry of Water Resources later submitted yet another revised estimate pegging the projected cost at Rs 804.43 crores plus Rs 54.01 crore more taking into account the escalations up to December 2010.

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