Herat Friendship dam
India’s policy of deepening its engagement in the post-Taliban Afghanistan through economic reconstruction will mark a milestone when Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurates a dam built with Indian aid in Herat province. The 42 MW dam, with an investment of over $275 million, will boost the agricultural and industrial sectors of Heart.
Significance of Herat Visit
The Herat visit comes close on the heels of a regional corridor agreement Mr. Modi signed with Iranian and Afghan leaders in Tehran, under which India will finance the development of Iran’s Chabahar port, which will be linked to Afghan road networks.
India’s interest in Afghanistan
1. India is one of the closest regional powers that has invested in institution and infrastructure building in Afghanistan. For India, Afghanistan has immense strategic potential. Besides the infrastructure work India has initiated and completed, it has also signed the TAPI pipeline project that aims to bring natural gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and Pakistan to India.
2. More important, a friendly, stable regime in Kabul is geopolitical insurance against Pakistan’s deep state.
Present Engagement with Afghanistan
Afghanistan is currently going through a particularly turbulent transition. The government in Kabul has been stretched in trying to stop Taliban advances over the past few months. President Ashraf Ghani seems to have realised that a complete military victory is improbable. In fact, Mr. Modi goes to Afghanistan at a time when Mr. Ghani is openly targeting Pakistan for supporting the Taliban.
This raises the question of whether New Delhi’s engagement should be limited to infrastructure development or whether it should expand its relationship. Lately, India has signalled a small shift in its policy by delivering M-25 attack helicopters to Kabul. But it remains cautious about making larger overtures on security and is wary of being sucked into a never-ending war.