$9.5m deal: India expands assistance to Afghanistan

An Afghan boy prepares tea as he waits for customers on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, on Jan. 8, 2019. (AP)
Updated 22 January 2019
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$9.5m deal: India expands assistance to Afghanistan

  • The projects include constructing classrooms, orphanages and canal protection walls
  • Since 2001, India has committed $3 billion for developmental assistance to Afghanistan

NEW DELHI: India signed 11 memoranda of understanding (MoUs) worth a total of $9.5 million with Afghanistan, said the Indian Embassy in Kabul. 

“These projects come under the ambit of community-based Small Development Projects (SDPs) which are aimed at building capacities and capabilities of Afghan nationals and institutions for governance and delivery of public service, developing socioeconomic infrastructure, securing and promoting livelihood options,” the embassy said in a press release.

Presided over by the CEO of Afghanistan, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, the MoUs were signed by Indian Ambassador Vinay Kumar and various Afghan ministries.

The projects include constructing classrooms, orphanages and canal protection walls, as well as enhancing economic opportunities for women.

“Since 2005 the Indian government has committed $200 million to support over 550 projects throughout Afghanistan under SDP,” the Indian Embassy said.

These programs are aimed at facilitating development of the local community, creation of basic infrastructure like schools, health centers, bridges, roads, irrigation facilities. it said.

Kumar was quoted by the media as saying: “These projects will help local communities in education, employment and livelihood generation and capacity building.”

Abdullah thanked India, writing on social media: “We signed MoUs for implementing 26 projects worth $9.5 million; part of 577 development projects at total cost of $120 million, funded by India from 2005-2021.”

Pranay Kotasthane, a research fellow at the Bangalore-based Takshashila Institution, said: “India has carved a niche for itself as a donor that is committed to state-building and economic development.” 

But “economic support rests on a peaceful security environment, and with the US deciding to scale back its military presence (in Afghanistan), India needs to do a lot more on the political and security aspects,” he added.

India “should build up the counterinsurgency capacity of the Afghan police and ANDSF (Afghan National Defense and Security Forces),” and “create a plan for transferring more military equipment,” he said.

“New Delhi needs to throw its weight behind formations that have commonality with Indian interests.”

Since 2001, India has committed $3 billion for developmental assistance to Afghanistan.


Scores dead in bomb attacks across Sri Lankan capital

Updated 15 min 35 sec ago
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Scores dead in bomb attacks across Sri Lankan capital

  • Attacks happened as Christians attended Easter Sunday services
  • Sri Lankan police chief warned of planned attacks by radical Muslim group on ‘prominent churches’ 10 days before deadly blasts

COLOMBO: At least 156 people, including 35 foreigners, were killed in Sri Lanka on Sunday, when a string of blasts ripped through high-end hotels and churches as worshippers attended Easter services.

A hospital source said Americans, British and Dutch citizens were among those killed in the six blasts, which also injured hundreds of people.

Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe condemned the blasts as “cowardly” and said the government was working to “contain the situation.”

The public has been told to excercise caution in the following days, with emergency numbers being circulated for people who want to seek help.

The country’s police chief made a nationwide alert 10 days before the blasts that suicide bombers planned to hit “prominent churches,” according to the warning seen by AFP.

Police chief Pujuth Jayasundara sent an intelligence warning to top officers on April 11 setting out the threat.

“A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ (National Thowheeth Jama’ath) is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo,” said the alert.

The NTJ is a radical Muslim group in Sri Lanka that came to notice last year when it was linked to the vandalization of Buddhist statues.

A police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said at least 42 people were killed in Colombo, where three hotels and a church were hit.

The first explosions were reported at St. Anthony’s Shrine — a church in Colombo — and St. Sebastian’s Church in the town of Negombo just outside the capital. Dozens of people injured in the St. Anthony’s blast flooded into the Colombo National Hospital by mid-morning, an official told AFP.

“A bomb attack to our church, please come and help if your family members are there,” read a post in English on the Facebook page of the St. Sebastian’s Church at Katuwapitiya in Negombo.

Shortly after those blasts were reported, police confirmed three hotels in the capital had also been hit, along with a church in Batticaloa.

An official at one of the hotels, the Cinnamon Grand Hotel near the prime minister’s official residence in Colombo, told AFP that the blast had ripped through the hotel restaurant. He said at least one person had been killed in the blast.

An official at the Batticaloa hospital told AFP more than 300 people had been admitted with injuries following the blast there.

(Reuters)

“Emergency meeting called in a few minutes. Rescue operations underway,” Sri Lanka’s Minister of Economic Reforms and Public Distribution, Harsha de Silva, said in a tweet on his verified account.

He said he had been to two of the attacked hotels and was at the scene at St. Anthony’s Shrine, and described “horrible scenes.” “I saw many body parts strewn all over,” he tweeted, adding that there were “many casualties including foreigners.”

“Please stay calm and indoors,” he added. Photos circulating on social media showed the roof of one church had been almost blown off in the blast.

The floor was littered with a mixture of roof tiles, splintered wood and blood. Several people could be seen covered in blood, with some trying to help those with more serious injuries. The images could not immediately be verified.

Only around six percent of mainly Buddhist Sri Lanka is Catholic, but the religion is seen as a unifying force because it includes people from both the Tamil and majority Sinhalese ethnic groups.