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India hands over strategic Zaranj-Delaram highway to Afghan

Reflecting the determination to carry on development work in war-ravaged Afghanistan, India handed over the strategic Delaram- Zaranj highway built by it braving frequent Taliban attacks in which some Indians were also killed.
By Ajay Kaul | PTI, Delaram (south Afghanistan),
UPDATED ON JAN 22, 2009 07:04 PM IST

Reflecting the determination to carry on development work in war-ravaged Afghanistan, India on Thursday handed over the strategic Delaram- Zaranj highway built by it braving frequent Taliban attacks in which some Indians were also killed.

Built at a cost of Rs 600 crore, the 215-km long highway, a symbol of India's developmental work in this country, was handed over to Afghan authorities by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee in the presence of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta.

"The 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 the handover of the highway.

Karzai said the completion of the project, which opens a shorter alternative route connecting Kabul to Iran, is a message to those who want to stop cooperation between India and Afghanistan. "Our cooperation will not stop," he said.

The highway provides India easy and alternate access for its goods to Afghanistan via Iran. This is significant because Pakistan has been denying transit facility to India for Afghanistan through its territory.

The Taliban was opposed to this project and launched frequent attacks on the construction workers. 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.

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