Modi to inaugurate dam in Afghanistan on first leg of five-nation tour

  • Jayanth Jacob, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jun 04, 2016 11:15 IST
In this photograph taken on June 2, 2016, the Salma Hydroelectric Dam is seen at Chishti Sharif in Afghanistan's Herat province. (AFP)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will begin his five-nation tour with a short stop in Afghanistan on Saturday.

Modi will inaugurate the Salma Dam in Afghanistan before heading to Qatar, Switzerland, Mexico and the United States. The Salma dam, dubbed the India-Afghanistan Friendship Dam, will irrigate 75,000 hectares of land and generate 42MW of power.

The project was undertaken by India on the Chist-e-Sharif river and executed by WAPCOS Ltd, a Government of India undertaking under ministry of water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation. The total cost of the project was Rs 170 crore.

The dam, which faced several challenges such as security problems, is seen as a symbol of India’s engagement in Afghanistan. The project is located in the Herat province, which shares a border with Iran and has a long history of wars — from Alexander the Great, Mongols and Arabs, who fought for its control, to the uprising against the Soviet Union in the late 1970s. It is also home to a huge rural population and the fertile Harirud valley.

Afghanistan president Ashraf Ghani will be present at the event, which is supposed to mark friendly bilateral ties between the two nations.

This will be Prime Minister Modi’s second visit to Afghanistan. In December last year, he inaugurated the new building of the Afghan Parliament, which was constructed by India as well.

The two leaders are expected to discuss the peace process with the Taliban, a complex issue given that the Afghanistan-Pakistan bonhomie is on the wane over engaging with the fundamentalist group. Further complicating the matter is the number of active players in Afghanistan — China being among them.

As such, what happens in Afghanistan is of key interest to India, and frequent engagement between leaders of the two countries is a positive sign.

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