India on Thursday handed over to Afghan authorities a crucial highway built by it in the face of stiff resistance from Taliban, vowing that the collaboration between the two countries in the field of development will not stop.
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee in the presence of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta handed over the 215-km long Delaram-Zaranj highway, a symbol of India's developmental work in the war-ravaged country, to Afghan authorities.
"Completion of the road reflects the determination of both India and Afghanistan that nothing can prevent or hinder collaboration between the two countries," Mukherjee said at a function to mark this handover.
On the occasion, Karzai said the completion of the Rs 600 crore project is a message to those who want to stop cooperation between India and Afghanistan. "Our cooperation will not stop," the Afghan President said.
The Taliban was opposed to this project and launched frequent attacks on the construction workers in an attempt to force the winding up of the work. A total of six Indians, including a Border Roads Organisation driver and four ITBP soldiers, and 129 Afghans were killed in these attacks.
"Our project personnel did face many challenges in the implementation of the project... In effect one human sacrifice was made for every kilometre and a half constructed," Mukherjee said, describing the completion of the project as "a glowing example" of the India-Afghanistan cooperation.
It will further regional cooperation by encouraging new trade and transit through Iranian ports and a supplementary access of Afghanistan to the sea, he said.