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Indian PM Inaugurates 'Friendship Dam' in Afghanistan

  • Ayesha Tanzeem

Preparation to inaugurate the Salma Dam, referred to as the Afghanistan India Friendship Dam by both countries, and is built with $300 million of Indian money, June 4, 2016. (Courtsey photo by bjp.org)

Preparation to inaugurate the Salma Dam, referred to as the Afghanistan India Friendship Dam by both countries, and is built with $300 million of Indian money, June 4, 2016. (Courtsey photo by bjp.org)

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated a dam in Afghanistan's western Herat province Saturday that had been 40 years in the making due to war and upheaval in the country.

The Salma Dam, referred to as the Afghanistan India Friendship Dam by both countries, is built with $300 million of Indian money. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s office tweeted warm messages for Modi as he landed in Herat.

“Most welcome to my dearest friend, @narendramodi to his second home AFG. Look forward to a great conversation,” Ghani’s tweet said.

The dam is one of 200 projects completed by India in Afghanistan, with more expected in future. “I want to give the good news to my people that ‘#AFG-#India #FriendshipDam’ is prologue to construction of many dams,” one of President Ghani’s tweets read.

In his inauguration speech, Modi emphasized the strength of his country’s relations with Afghanistan: “...for others, their commitments may have a sunset clause, but our relationship is timeless,” he said.

The 107 meter high, 550 meter long earth and rock filled dam will come online next year and start generating around 42 megawatts of electricity for mostly residential and agricultural use.

"The completion of the Afghan-India friendship dam represents the culmination of years of hard work by around 1,500 Indian and Afghan engineers and other professionals in very difficult conditions," Vikas Swarup, Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman told reporters.

This was Modi’s second visit to Afghanistan in six months. After the inauguration of the dam, he was also awarded Afghanistan’s highest civilian honor, the Amir Amanullah Khan award.

India is seen in Afghanistan as a strong ally and a partner, unlike its neighbor Pakistan, which is viewed as supporting the Afghan Taliban responsible for violent attacks in the country.

Analysts say Pakistan’s support of the Taliban stems from concerns that a Delhi-friendly government in Kabul would lead to encirclement. Pakistan shares its eastern border with India and western border with Afghanistan.

Pakistan accuses India of covertly supporting an insurgency in its restive Balochistan province, which borders Afghanistan.

In March, Taliban militants fired a barrage of rockets at Afghanistan’s newly built parliament complex in Kabul.

The complex, built by India at an estimated cost of $90 million, was inaugurated by Modi in December. India and Afghanistan recently signed a transit agreement with Pakistan’s third neighbor, Iran, to develop a southern port at Chabahar, which will bypass Pakistan to give India and Afghanistan access to Central Asia.

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