NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will travel to Afghanistan for the second time in six months this weekend, on a one-day visit to inaugurate a dam with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, India’s foreign ministry said on Thursday.
The dam, in western Herat district close to the Iran border, is one of two large projects carried out under India’s development partnership with Afghanistan, worth more than $2 billion.
“The completion of the Afghan-India friendship dam represents the culmination of years of hard work by around 1,500 Indian and Afghan engineers and other professionals in very difficult conditions,” Vikas Swarup, foreign ministry spokesman told reporters of the Saturday visit.
India has been a key supporter of Kabul’s post-Taliban government, a stance that has led analysts to point to the threat of a “proxy war” in Afghanistan between India and Pakistan.
Pakistan — the historic backer of the Taliban — has long been accused of assisting the insurgents in Afghanistan, especially with attacks on Indian targets in the country.
“The real image that India has in Afghanistan is as a partner which has stood by… through its difficult times, a partner which has contributed immensely to Afghanistan’s development, unlike some partners who have contributed to instability and terrorism,” Swarup said, in an apparent reference to Pakistan.
In March, Taliban militants fired a barrage of rockets at Afghanistan’s newly built parliament complex in Kabul.
The complex, built by India at an estimated cost of $90 million, was inaugurated by PM Modi in December.
India and Afghanistan recently signed a three-way transit agreement with Iran to develop its southern port of Chabahar, as Modi visited Tehran last month.
The deal, bypassing Pakistan to connect Iran, India, and Afghanistan to central Asia, would boost economic growth in the region, Modi said at the time.