India to give $100M as grant to Afghanistan

Thursday, 31 October 2002, 08:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: Continuing with its diplomacy of generosity towards Afghanistan, India has decided to convert the $100 million credit it had pledged for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the war-ravaged nation into an outright grant.

External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha will formally convey the government's decision to Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah when he arrives here Thursday evening on a four-day visit.

During the visit, described by a senior official as part of the continuing high-level interaction between New Delhi and Kabul that has marked bilateral ties since the collapse of the Taliban regime, Abdullah will also call on Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

New Delhi had already converted $31.5 million of the $100 million credit into grants -- $10 million as budgetary support, $10 million for the three Airbus 300 aircraft it has gifted and $11.5 million for various projects.

New Delhi, like most other countries, would not like to see terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism staging a comeback in Afghanistan and believes that economic development of the country is crucial to keep the terrorists at bay.

During the five years of the fundamentalist Taliban regime that ended with the US led military operations last year, India had been edged out of strategically located Afghanistan by Pakistan, which was widely seen as the main supporter of the Taliban.

Now New Delhi is keen that Pakistan never regains its decisive say in Afghanistan's foreign policy, and its diplomacy centered on giving generous aid to Kabul is apparently paying dividends.

Not only the people of Afghanistan but also the international community acknowledges New Delhi's assistance in rebuilding the country.

"While others talk, India acts," is a comment widely heard in Afghanistan about Indian assistance, Indian officials and visitors say.

Though the international community had pledged $1.8 billion for the reconstruction of Afghanistan, few have delivered on it, a fact acknowledged by Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. President George Bush's special envoy for Afghanistan, who praised New Delhi's support to the government in Kabul.

Khalilzad, who held talks with National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra, Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal and Arun Kumar, joint secretary (Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran), here Wednesday, praised India for playing a "major role" in a range of reconstruction activities in Afghanistan.

"We in the U.S. applaud India's willingness to play a major role in Afghanistan and turning the $100 million credit into a grant," he said.

The U.S. and India shared strategic objectives in Afghanistan to free the country of terrorism to ensure that it does not again become a base for terrorism and the reconstruction and economic development of the nation racked by years of civil war are not hampered, he added.
He said there had been a gap between the financial pledges made to Kabul by various countries that took part in the Tokyo conference on reconstruction of Afghanistan earlier this year and their delivery.

Like India, the U.S. was "pretty much on target" in honoring the commitments, he said and added, "We will encourage other countries to follow the example of the U.S. and India."

Besides financial support, India has also extended material assistance to Afghanistan, including one million tones of wheat, medical and other relief supplies and 50 buses to ease the transport problem in Kabul.

Source: IANS
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