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Indian PM Narendra Modi dedicates ‘Salma Dam’ to Afghan-India Friendship

Pakistan accuses India of covertly supporting an insurgency in its restive Balochistan province, which borders Afghanistan

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, is escorted by Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah as he leaves Kabul at the city's airport, Dec. 25, 2015. Image source: VOA
  • The Salma Dam, referred to as the Afghanistan India Friendship Dam by both countries
  • The dam is one of 200 projects completed by India in Afghanistan
  • India is seen in Afghanistan as a strong ally and a partner

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated a dam in Afghanistan’s western Herat province Saturday, June 4 that had been 40 years in the making due to war and upheaval in the country.

The Salma Dam, referred to as the Afghanistan India Friendship Dam by both countries, is built with $300 million of Indian money. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s office tweeted warm messages for Modi as he landed in Herat.

“Most welcome to my dearest friend, @narendramodi to his second home AFG. Look forward to a great conversation,” Ghani’s tweet said.

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The dam is one of 200 projects completed by India in Afghanistan, with more expected in future. “I want to give the good news to my people that ‘#AFG-#India #FriendshipDam’ is prologue to construction of many dams,” one of President Ghani’s tweets read.

In his inauguration speech, Modi emphasized the strength of his country’s relations with Afghanistan: “…for others, their commitments may have a sunset clause, but our relationship is timeless,” he said.

The 107 meter high, 550 meter long earth and rock filled dam will come online next year and start generating around 42 megawatts of electricity for mostly residential and agricultural use.

Preparation to inaugurate the Salma Dam, referred to as the Afghanistan India Friendship Dam by both countries, and is built with $300 million of Indian money, June 4, 2016. Image source: bjp.org
Preparation to inaugurate the Salma Dam, referred to as the Afghanistan India Friendship Dam by both countries, and is built with $300 million of Indian money, June 4, 2016. Image source: bjp.org

“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, Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman told reporters.

This was Modi’s second visit to Afghanistan in six months. After the inauguration of the dam, he was also awarded Afghanistan’s highest civilian honor, the Amir Amanullah Khan award.

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India is seen in Afghanistan as a strong ally and a partner, unlike its neighbor Pakistan, which is viewed as supporting the Afghan Taliban responsible for violent attacks in the country.

Analysts say Pakistan’s support of the Taliban stems from concerns that a Delhi-friendly government in Kabul would lead to encirclement. Pakistan shares its eastern border with India and western border with Afghanistan.

Pakistan accuses India of covertly supporting an insurgency in its restive Balochistan province, which borders Afghanistan.

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 Modi in December. India and Afghanistan recently signed a transit agreement with Pakistan’s third neighbor, Iran, to develop a southern port at Chabahar, which will bypass Pakistan to give India and Afghanistan access to Central Asia. (VOA)

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ISIS Announces New India and Pakistan Provinces

The "Islamic State Pakistan Province," in communiques issued via its global propaganda mouthpiece Amaq News Agency, took credit for killing a Pakistani police officer

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ISIS, New India, Pakistan, Provinces
FILE- An Islamic State flag is captured in this photo illustration. VOA

The Islamic State group says it has established a “province” in Pakistan, days after the terrorist organization used the name “Hind Province” for an attack it claimed in the India-ruled portion of the disputed Kashmir region.

Both of the divisions formerly fell under the “Khorasan Province” or ISKP — the name the Middle East-based terrorist group uses for its regional operations launched in early 2015 from bases in the border region of Afghanistan — according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist threats.

The “Islamic State Pakistan Province,” in communiques issued via its global propaganda mouthpiece Amaq News Agency, took credit for killing a Pakistani police officer this week in Mastung, and it reported shooting at a gathering of militants linked to the outlawed Pakistani Taliban militant group in Quetta.

Both the districts are located in violence-hit Baluchistan province, which borders Afghanistan and Iran. Several separatist Baluch groups and sectarian organizations also are active in the province.

ISIS, New India, Pakistan, Provinces
FILE – Rescue workers and army soldiers gather at the site of a blast at a vegetable market in Quetta, Pakistan, April 12, 2019. VOA

There was no immediate reaction available from the Pakistani government.

Islamabad maintains there is no “organized” presence of IS in the country. Pakistani military officials say an ongoing nationwide military-led “intelligence-based operation” is primarily aimed at denying space in Pakistan to extremists linked to any terrorist groups.

The group released no details about the boundaries of the territory it is now claiming. In previous Islamic State propaganda, all of Afghanistan and most of Pakistan, parts of modern Iran and Central Asia make up the so-called Khorasan Province. IS also has spoken about creating its own chapter for the Indian subcontinent.

Marketplace expolsion

IS also took responsibility for last month’s suicide blast in a marketplace in Quetta city that killed 20 people and left nearly 50 injured. The targets of the attack were members of the ethnic Hazara Shiite Muslim community.

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On Friday, IS declared in a statement via Amaq the creation of “Hind Province,” while taking responsibility for clashes with Indian forces in Amshipora in the Shopian district of Kashmir.

IS has increased attacks lately in the region, including taking credit for the group’s Easter Sunday first-ever bombings in Sri Lanka that killed more than 250 people.

Observers say altering its provincial structure and fragmenting the “Khorasan Province” by IS could be aimed at bolstering its credentials after losing its “caliphate” in Syria and Iran, where the terrorists at one point used to control thousands of miles of territory.

“As ISIS [one of several acronyms used for IS] seeks to build and restructure foundations of insurgencies across the globe after its losses in Iraq and Syria, it is attempting to recruit also from Pakistan, a country with an existing jihadi militant population,” tweeted Rita Katz, the director of the SITE Intelligence Group.

ISIS, New India, Pakistan, Provinces
the terrorist organization used the name “Hind Province” for an attack it claimed in the India-ruled portion of the disputed Kashmir region. Wikimedia Commons

The suspected rebranding of ISKP comes as the United Nations earlier this week designated the “Khorasan Province” as a global terrorist, noting the group was formed in January 2015 by former members of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) who pledged allegiance to Abu Baker al-Baghdadi, leader of the ISIS/ISIL.

The United States has already blacklisted ISKP as a foreign terrorist organization, and American troops are conducting regular airstrikes against the group’s bases in Afghanistan with the help of local forces, killing thousands of militants.

Analysts say American counterterrorism airstrikes and clashes with the Afghan Taliban have prevented ISKP from expanding its regional influence and the rebranding strategy could have stemmed from those challenges.

“Khorasan chapter has been struggling to establish a footprint in Afghanistan and the region in general, and they may be following al-Qaida’s strategy to create regional affiliates,” says Muhammad Amir Rana, who heads Islamabad-based Pakistan Institute for Peace and Studies (PIPS). (VOA)