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Cabinet clears funds for crucial Afghanistan road link

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Indo-Asian News Service

New Delhi, Dec 13 (IANS) The union cabinet Thursday approved over $180 million for building the strategic Zaranj-Delaram road in Afghanistan that would provide India better access to Central Asia while underlining New Delhi’s commitment to the reconstruction of the violence-torn country.

‘The union cabinet today gave its approval for involving an expenditure of Rs.746.79 crore for upgradation and construction of the road from Zaranj to Delaram in Afghanistan,’ Information and Broadcasting Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi told reporters after a cabinet meeting here chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

‘The construction of the road would help Afghanistan to provide communications facility in a remote part of the country. It will demonstrate the government of India’s commitment to the rebuilding of Afghanistan,’ Dasmunsi said.

‘India’s presence in general would further strengthen our interests in Afghanistan,’ he added.

The strategic road would not only provide India improved access into Afghanistan and Central Asia and enhance its influence in that country. But more importantly, the road would also open up an alternate route for the landlocked country to an Iranian airport and reduce its dependence on Pakistan.

Pakistan resents India’s assistance in building this road link as Islamabad fears it will give India greater presence in Afghanistan and reduce its influence in a country it regards as its sphere of influence.

Ramankutty Maniyappan, a driver with India’s Border Roads Organisation (BRO), which is building this road, was killed more than two years ago by the Taliban militia which allegedly acted at the behest of Pakistan. Islamabad, however, denied any links with the killers of the Indian worker in Afghanistan.

The clearing of the funds for this arterial road is also sure to put spotlight on the security of Indian workers deployed in building this road. Security was scaled up for Indian workers by the Afghan government after the brutal murder of three Indians over the last two years.

India has pledged $750 million for Afghanistan’s reconstruction that includes projects in infrastructure, health and education. India is also helping to build the new Afghan parliament – its foundation stone was laid during the visit of Manmohan Singh’s historic visit to Afghanistan in August 2005.

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Written by afghandevnews

December 15, 2007 at 4:48 pm

Posted in Aid, Development

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