02/27/2024, 19.24
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Indian technicians in Afghanistan to 'restart' Friendship Dam

Opened in 2016, the project that symbolised Indian-Afghan cooperation suffered following the Taliban takeover. The Indian visit signals new humanitarian cooperation between Kabul and New Delhi.

New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – For the first time since the Taliban seized power again in the summer of 2021, India has sent its technicians to carry out checks on the Afghan-India Friendship Dam built eight years ago on the Harirud River, Salma, a remote area of northwestern Afghanistan, Wire, an Indian news website, reported.

This marks a significant step in the evolution of relations between the Taliban regime and New Delhi; it is in fact the first official visit to Afghanistan related to cooperation and infrastructure development.

The Taliban government had repeatedly asked Indian authorities to send a technical team to solve some problems at the Salma dam. Until now, however, diplomatic issues had delayed any intervention.

For India, this is likely a first official visit to Afghanistan related to infrastructure projects since 2021. Like the rest of the international community, New Delhi does not officially recognise the Taliban regime. However, since Indian diplomats returned to Kabul in 2022, Indian humanitarian assistance has gradually increased.

In the previous 20 years, India had invested more than US$ 2 billion in development aid in Afghanistan, and the Salma Dam – later named the Afghan-India Friendship Dam – was a symbol of India’s involvement.

Inaugurated in June 2016 by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and then-Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, it was the first major water infrastructure project built in modern Afghanistan in 50 years.

The project was also diplomatically sensitive, as Iran had opposed its construction for fear of a reduction in the flow of water in the river that runs through its territory.

After commissioning, the dam was entrusted to Indian-trained Afghan engineers and technicians. But the deterioration of security conditions and the lack of maintenance due to financial issues brought forth critical issues, compounded by the flight of technicians in the troubled summer of 2021.

Eventually, the Taliban found themselves with the challenge of finding skilled staff to manage a hydroelectric project already in crisis.

The centralised software that controls the dam has not worked for years, a source told Wire, nor has the automatic mechanism for opening and closing irrigation sluices.

Now, with the water level at a minimum in  winter, Indian technicians will try to take stock of what must be done to restart the dam.

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