India helps Afghanistan in war recovery

By : |March 29, 2003 0

NEW DELHI: India will help war-battered Afghanistan rebuild its basic telecoms infrastructure as part of a $100 million grant to the landlocked nation, Communications Minister Arun Shourie said.

Afghan Wireless Communications Company is the only firm in the country — which has been embroiled in conflict for more than two decades — that provides mobile connectivity to some 17,000 people in four cities. Its fixed-line network is in a shambles. “They’ve asked for line exchanges, satellite communications equipment, training of their manpower and modernisation of postal services,” Shourie told reporters after meeting Afghan Communications Minister Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai.

“They’ve asked for help in setting up that infrastructure,” he said. “These will form a part of the $100 million grant.” Shourie said officials from the telecoms department would be deputed to work out the financing costs for the equipment. Afghanistan is trying to raise funds to reconstruct its telecoms network by attracting private investment, taking loans from organisations such as the World Bank and through suppliers’ credit.

India is keen to strengthen its ties with Afghanistan and has a bilateral preferential trade agreement with Kabul. Under the deal, New Delhi will give a 50 to 100 percent tariff concession to 38 Afghan items, while Kabul will extend duty-free access to eight Indian items. India is also helping develop Afghanistan’s police force, army, road transport and aviation sector.

New Delhi, along with Iran and Russia, supported the Northern Alliance opposition group during its war with the Pakistani-backed Taliban, and has been pushing political and commercial ties with the new regime in Kabul since it came to power in late 2001.

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