India signs pact for building dam in Afghanistan

India signs pact for building dam in Afghanistan, brushing aside opposition from Pakistan

The Shahtoot Dam is proposed to be built in the Chahar Asiab district near Kabul

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Afghanistan has brushed aside opposition from Pakistan to ink an agreement with India for construction of a dam that would provide safe drinking water to two million residents of the capital of the conflict-ravaged country.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Tuesday said that India had signed an agreement with Afghanistan for building the Shatoot Dam on the Kabul River basin. He made the announcement while participating at a virtual conference held to pledge support of the international community for reconstruction of Afghanistan.

Jaishankar also announced that India would soon launch the Phase-IV of its High Impact Community Development Programme in Afghanistan, including around 150 projects worth $80 million.

The Shahtoot Dam is proposed to be built in the Chahar Asiab district near Kabul.

The dam will be built on a tributary of Kabul River, which originates from Sanglakh Range of Hindu Kush Mountain and flows through Kabul, Surobi and Jalalabad in Afghanistan before flowing into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan.

New Delhi’s plan to support Kabul to build the Shahtoot Dam is likely to raise hackles in Pakistan.

Islamabad has been opposing the proposed dam arguing that such projects on the Kabul River and its tributaries in Afghanistan will reduce the flow of water into Pakistan.

Pakistan has in fact been nudging Afghanistan to sign a treaty on sharing of water of Kabul River and its tributaries. The proposal, however, has not yet received a positive response from the Afghan Government, which fears that such a treaty might make it difficult for it to go ahead with its plan to build irrigation and hydroelectric projects in the Kabul River basin.

The construction of the Shahtoot Dam may cost $ 300 million. Apart from providing potable water to over two million residents of Kabul, it will help irrigate 4,000 hectares land in Chahar Asiab and Khairabad in the vicinity of the capital city of Afghanistan. It will also help provide drinking water for the first phase of the new city at Dehsabz in the outskirts of Kabul, sources told DH.

New Delhi agreed to support the Afghan Government build the Shahtoot Dam near Kabul, more than four years after completing construction of Salma Dam at Herat province of western Afghanistan, the last in a series of major infrastructure projects New Delhi embarked upon since 2001 to help in the reconstruction of the war-torn country.

India has already spent $3 billion to support development projects in Afghanistan.

Jaishankar’s announcement on New Delhi’s support to construction of Shahtoot Dam in Kabul came amid concerns about the possibility of Pakistan trying to elbow out India from Afghanistan by taking undue advantage of its role in setting the stage for the peace process with Taliban.

The announcement by the External Affairs Minister signalled New Delhi’s intent to continue to support development of infrastructure in Afghanistan.

“Increasing level of violence in Afghanistan remains a matter of grave concern. While we support all efforts to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan, India calls for an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire,” Jaishankar said on Tuesday, adding: “We also believe that the peace process must be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled.”