India, Afghanistan sign 5 pacts for developing educational infra in Afghan provinces

India and Afghanistan on Sunday signed five agreements for developing educational infrastructure in four Afghan provinces, with the move seen as a reiteration of New Delhi’s support to Kabul at a time when the war-torn country’s peace process is facing challenges.

The five memorandums of understanding (MoUs) were signed under the high impact community development projects (HICDP) programme being implemented by India to further strengthen the bilateral development partnership, said a statement from the Indian embassy in Kabul.

Since 2001, India has undertaken projects worth $3 billion in Afghanistan, including $1 billion pledged in 2016 under the “new development partnership” scheme over the period of five years. These projects are part of India’s commitment to assist Afghanistan emerge as a “peaceful, united, prosperous and pluralistic nation”, the statement said.

The projects to be taken up under the five MoUs include the construction of classrooms, a higher education building and a road within the campus of Albironi University. The projects are spread across the four provinces of Nooristan, Badakhshan, Farah and Kapisa.

Since 2005, the Indian government has committed $200 million to support more than 550 high impact community development projects across Afghanistan. Of these, more than 400 projects have already been completed while the rest are in various stages of implementation. These are usually smaller grassroots projects that involve a lower financial outlay but have a direct impact on local populations.

The ceremony in Kabul for the signing of the MoUs was presided over by the Afghan minister of economy, Mustafa Mastoor. Tripartite agreements were signed between the Indian government, the Afghan ministry of economy and the implementing ministries, such as the ministry of education.

Two MoUs were signed by Indian ambassador Vinay Kumar and ministers Mustafa Mastoor and Abdul Tawab Balakarzai, while three were signed by Kumar and ministers Mastoor and Rangina Hamidi.

“The government of India remains committed to take forward the India-Afghanistan Development Partnership based on the national priorities of the government and people” of Afghanistan, the statement said.

Despite an agreement signed by the US and the Taliban in February, Afghanistan has witnessed a surge in terrorist violence even as it grapples with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The intra-Afghan dialogue, a key component of the peace process, is yet to get underway.