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India's prime minister inaugurates $290m dam in Afghanistan

By AFP - Jun 04,2016 - Last updated at Jun 04,2016

In this photograph taken on Thursday, the Salma Hydroelectric Dam is seen at Chishti Sharif in Afghanistan's Herat province (AFP photo)

Herat, Afghanistan — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Afghanistan on Saturday to inaugurate a $290 million hydroelectric dam with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, the latest Indian investment which highlights strengthening ties between the two countries.

The 42 megawatt Salma dam in western Herat province, bordering Iran, is the second major Indian project after a new parliament complex built under New Delhi's robust development partnership with Afghanistan. 

Modi and Ghani jointly pressed the button on a remote-controlled console, sending torrents of water gushing down the dam as celebrations erupted with balloons released in the colours of the Indian flag.

"I want to give the good news to my people that 'Afghanistan-India Friendship Dam' is the prologue to construction of a series of dams that we have undertaken so that our provinces have access to electricity, water, food and work," Ghani said at the ceremony.

Construction on Salma dam, which will boost Afghanistan's power capacity and help irrigate thousands of hectares of farmland in a parched landscape, had been stalled by decades of conflict.

"Afghans and Indians dreamt of this project in the 1970s," Modi said.

"Today the brave Afghan people are sending a message that the forces of destruction, death, denial and domination shall not prevail. It is a historic moment of emotion and pride in the relations between Afghanistan and India."

India, the fifth largest bilateral donor in Afghanistan, has been a key supporter of Kabul's government and has poured more than $2 billion into the country since the Taliban was toppled from power in 2001.

'Building prosperity'

New Delhi's active engagement has led analysts to point to the threat of a "proxy war" in Afghanistan between India and its nuclear-armed arch-rival Pakistan.

Pakistan — the historic backer of the Taliban — has long been accused of supporting the insurgents in Afghanistan, especially with attacks on Indian targets in the country.

In December, Modi inaugurated Afghanistan's new parliament complex in Kabul, built by India at an estimated cost of $90 million.

A few days after his visit militants launched a 25-hour gun and bomb siege near the Indian consulate in Afghanistan's Mazar-i-Sharif city.

And in March, Taliban militants fired a barrage of rockets at the parliament complex.

"Destroying is easy and building is difficult. Contrary to those whose main art is destroying and sending messages of destruction, we have taken the difficult responsibility of building prosperity," Ghani said in a veiled reference to the Taliban. 

"We resolutely believe that... prosperity triumphs over destruction. Hope is right and hopelessness is wrong; seeking peace is right and seeking war is wrong."

Diplomatic relations between New Delhi and Kabul have grown despite a series of attacks on Indian installations in Afghanistan.

The two countries recently signed a three-way transit agreement with Iran to develop its southern port of Chabahar, as Modi visited Tehran last month.

 

The deal, bypassing Pakistan to connect Iran, India, and Afghanistan to central Asia, would boost economic growth in the region, Modi said at the time.

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