$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

$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.


Russia says suspected mercenaries detained by Belarus were going to Latin America

Updated 21 min 19 sec ago

Russia says suspected mercenaries detained by Belarus were going to Latin America

  • Belarusian authorities have said they suspect the men entered their country to plot “acts of terrorism” and destabilize it before an Aug. 9 presidential election
  • Russia has close relations with a number of Latin American countries including Venezuela, and sent dozens of military personnel to Caracas last year

MOSCOW: A Russian diplomat said on Monday a group of more than 30 suspected Russian mercenaries detained in Belarus last week were only passing through Minsk and were on their way to an unnamed Latin American state.
Belarusian authorities have said they suspect the men entered their country to plot “acts of terrorism” and destabilize it before an Aug. 9 presidential election.
Russian officials have dismissed the accusation and described the men as employees of a private security firm. The Russian state says it does not use mercenaries.
The standoff could further strain relations between Minsk and its traditional ally Russia, which soured after the neighbors failed to agree on an oil supply contract for this year.
“Their final destination was one of the states in the Latin American region,” the diplomat, Kirill Pletnyev, was quoted as saying on Monday by the Russian RIA news agency.
Belarus granted Pletnyev consular access to the detained men, RIA added. His quotes did not name the Latin American country or give any more details on the identity of the men.
Russia has close relations with a number of Latin American countries including Venezuela, and sent dozens of military personnel to Caracas last year, describing them as military specialists.
On Friday, Alexander Agafonov, the head of the Belarusian investigative group that is handling the case, said the arrested men — some of whom were wearing army fatigues — had given “contradictory accounts” about their plans.
He was quoted as saying that 11 of the arrested men had told authorities they planned to fly on to Venezuela, 15 to Turkey, two to Cuba and one to Syria. Another said he did not know his destination, while three refused to make a statement.
Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko, who has said he wants a full explanation from Russia, faces his biggest electoral test in years on Aug. 9 as public anger swells over his handling of COVID-19, the economy and human rights.