Experts from the Indian School of Mines (ISM) at Dhanbad, who are helping the Afghanistan government set up a similar mining school there, are apprehensive that the Taliban may try to jeopardise the project.
A three-member panel that travelled to Kabul and its surrounding districts on December 14 to conduct a survey has taken cognizance of Taliban attempts to terminate the project. However, this hasn’t fazed the experts, who are going ahead with the plan to prepare a detailed project report (DPR) for the upcoming institution.
Sharing his fears with the Hindustan Times, Dhanbad ISM registrar and panel head Colonel (Retd) MK Singh said: “The Taliban is a big threat to Indians engaged in the development of Afghanistan, given how their supporters and sympathisers constantly motivate Afghan civilians to not cooperate with us. They say Indians and other foreigners are invading their country on the pretext of carrying out development work and bettering their lives. The Taliban is misleading them in the name of religion and cultural invasion.”
Remarking that the Afghan people’s perception of foreigners has to be changed, Singh said constant interference by the Taliban in the everyday lives of the public is a major reason for the country’s lack of development. However, minimising their interference at this juncture would be a difficult task, he added.
Singh and his team members - Dr AK Mishra and professor Dheeraj Kumar - had to move around in a 24/7 security cordon while carrying out the survey, an experience he described as “truly adventurous and thrilling”. Their Kabul visit was facilitated by India’s ministry of external affairs.
Professor Kumar said they discussed various aspects of the institution - including its academic programmes, selection criteria and infrastructure - with Afghan officials. “Though we are provided the best of comforts - lodging at the Hotel Kabul Serena, bulletproof vehicles and good food - we couldn’t help feeling uneasy as we travelled,” he said, adding that the hotel has seven layers of security checks because it also houses top US army officials.
He said that despite the Taliban’s interference, local residents hold the team members in high regard because “India’s support to Afghanistan is unconditional”.
After the DPR is prepared, the ISM team will submit it to the Centre for further action.
In 2012, a two-member team comprising professor NM Mishra, associate dean, project and infrastructure development, and Professor M Jawed, head, department of mines, had visited Afghanistan to survey the topology of the project site.
Remarking that Kabul Polytechnic is the only technical institute in the region, Professor Jawed said that decades of wars and political instability have jeopardised Afghanistan’s academic atmosphere. So, on the recommendation of the external affairs ministry, as many as 50 Afghan students were admitted to the ISM - of which 44 are still enrolled there.
Sabawoon Afzali, a second-year Afghan student at ISM, said: “The Taliban threatens anybody who works for development. The Uzbeks and Chechens in the Taliban are ruining our country.”
Welcoming the Centre’s decision to establish an institute like the ISM in Afghanistan, he said ties with India will go a long way in his country’s development.