Afghanistan's first national agriculture university, a major capacity-building project backed by India, will be inaugurated here today.
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid arrived here for a day-long visit and along with Afghan President Hamid Karzai was scheduled to inaugurate the Afghan National Agricultural Sciences and Technology University (ANASTU). Karzai had identified the establishment of an agriculture university as a priority area for India-Afghanistan collaboration. The major capacity-building project backed by India will be jointly inaugurated by Karzai and Khurshid in Kandahar, Afghanistan's second largest city.
During his day-long visit, Khurshid will call on Karzai and also take stock of the progress made in some major Indian infrastructure projects like the Afghan parliament building in Kabul and Salma hydroelectric dam in Herat province. India's development assistance programme for Afghanistan currently stands at USD two billion, making it the leading donor nation among all regional countries.
Khurshid's visit is taking place as the rift between Karzai and the US has grown further, jeopardising their proposed bilateral security agreement vital for the limited presence of American forces in Afghanistan after the drawdown this year.
Afghanistan on Thursday released 65 accused militants from a former US prison despite vehement protests from the American military, which says that the men are Taliban fighters who will likely return to kill coalition and Afghan forces. The release had been ordered by Karzai after his government took over the prison near Kabul from US troops. Khurshid's visit is also taking place at a time when both India and Afghanistan will witness general elections.
Afghanistan will go to polls on April 5 where the vote is considered a pivotal moment in the nation's history after nearly 13 years of war.
Amid a surge in violence from the Taliban, India as well as the world will be watching the vote as means of measuring the success of their efforts to foster democracy and bolster security in the war-torn country over the past 12 years. "India is and will remain committed to Afghanistan for all times to come but certainly let me emphasis beyond 2014 which is critical year for Afghanistan and many of us. We do see a peaceful, stable and strong Afghanistan and we think that is in the interest of this entire South Asian Region," Khurshid had said last month at the meeting of International Contact Group (ICG) on Afghanistan in New Delhi.