India not to take up new projects in Afghanistan

India not to take up new projects in Afghanistan

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told Afghan President Hamid Karzai here on Monday that India “is ready to augment assistance for capacity building and for skills and human resources development to help strengthen public institutions in Afghanistan.”

Singh’s remark reflected New Delhi’s reluctance to take up any new mega project in Afghanistan and indicated that its role in reconstruction of the conflict-ridden country would — at least for the time being — be limited to giving scholarships to Afghan students to study in India; helping in skill-development of employees of the Afghan government in addition to providing vocational training to workers in private sector.

India has been re-calibrating its role in Afghanistan in the wake of the February 26 terrorist attack in which seven Indians were killed in Kabul. The attack came amid an aggressive diplomatic campaign by Pakistan against Indian role in Afghanistan. Earlier, 10 Indians lost lives in terrorist attacks in Afghanistan in 2008 and 2009.
Karzai on Monday assured Singh that his government is committed to ensuring security of Indians in Afghanistan.

Diplomatic sources said that India has to stay put in Afghanistan for its own strategic interests and will not scale down its operations. But New Delhi is also reluctant to take up any new infrastructure project that requires the presence of Indian personnel on the ground in Afghanistan.

Instead, India is keen to focus on a new training programme for the officials of the Afghan Government in collaboration with the UNDP.  The National Institution Building Project will be implemented from 2010 till 2014 at an estimated cost of $115 million. New Delhi wants to train Afghan officials mostly in India, but will also have some parts of the programme in Afghanistan.

India’s new policy to focus on capacity building of government officials and private sector workers in Afghanistan stems from the fact that its similar initiatives — New Delhi already provided scholarships to 1,200 Afghan youths to study in India—had earlier helped it win common people’s hearts.

During his meeting with Singh, Karzai expressed Afghanistan’s gratitude to India for laying a road from Zaranj to Delaram and the extension of power lines.

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