Rs 500-cr Afghan aid before Cabinet today

A day before President Hamid Karzai visits India, the Ministry of External Affairs rushed through a proposal to make good Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's promise to grant Rs 500 crore to build small but important infrastructure projects in all 34 provinces of Afghanistan.

The proposal, which comes before the Cabinet tomorrow, seeks permission to grant Afghanistan $100 million for the third phase of the Small Development Projects (SDPs) that would cover 100 projects in social works, with each project costing not more than $1 million, over a period of four years starting current fiscal 2012-13.

Clues to India's urgency the note was prepared barely eight days ago came in Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai's remarks at a meeting on July 7: "It furthers India's influence and reach in various communities and also provides a backing to the Government of Afghanistan in their developmental activities thus serving our long term strategic purpose." "The advantage of SDPs was in creation of immense goodwill for India at the ground level as these projects are implemented through local people of Afghanistan," he said.

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