India’s Security Objectives in Afghanistan Spell trouble for Pakistan

Spearhead Special Report – 01.11.2018

By Fatima Ayub
Research Analyst, Spearhead Research

In August 2018, after helping in the construction of Salma Dam in the western Herat province of Afghanistan – known poignantly as the Afghan-India Friendship Dam – it was announced that India had now taken up the task of building another Dam worth an estimated $300 million for the Kabul government. The Shahtoot Dam situated in the Kabul river basin upon completion will hold 146 million cubic meters of potable water for two million people in Kabul and irrigation water for over 400,000 acres of land.

The Shahtoot dam is proposed to be built on a tributary of Kabul river in Chahar Asiab district near the capital of Afghanistan. 

The Pakistan Economy Watch recently said that Islamabad must lessen its dependence on arch-rivals India and Afghanistan for water by constructing dams and water reservoirs. With projects such as the Shahtoot Dam it is expected that the flow of Kabul River into Pakistan would be reduced, triggering a potential water crisis in the country.

An observatory glance at the geography of the area reveals that the Kabul river originates from the Hindu Kush mountains and flows through Kabul, Surobi and Jalalabad in Afghanistan before flowing into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan and joining the Indus River near Attock, northwest of the county’s capital Islamabad.

The Kabul River Basin extends over nine Afghan provinces and two Pakistani provinces. Nearly 25 million people live in this basin and the Kabul River and its tributaries play a significant role in their lives and livelihoods. It is the sole source of drinking water for almost 7 million Afghans and Pakistanis.

Unfortunately, like the rest of war torn Afghanistan its water infrastructure is also in decrepit conditions, which make the Kabul River all the more valuable as a source of fresh water for the country. According to Afghanistan’s Urban Water Supply and Sewerage Corporation, 68 percent of Kabul’s population doesn’t have access to piped water supply and just 10 percent of its residents have access to potable water.

In view of the severe water crisis that has gripped Afghanistan over the last several decades, the value of India’s helping hand will be a unique gesture for the Afghans.

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