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Cablegate: Indian and Pakistani Consulates Update

VZCZCXRO3481
RR RUEHPW
DE RUEHBUL #2938/01 3100948
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 050948Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6068
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 5218
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 002938

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/FO, SCA/A, EUR/RPM
STATE PASS TO AID FOR ASIA/SCAA
ROME PASS TO POL
NSC FOR WOOD
OSD FOR WILKES
CENTCOM FOR CG CSTC-A, CG CJTF-101 POLAD

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

REFTEL: KABUL 02907

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL ETRD EFIN AF TI
SUBJECT: Indian and Pakistani Consulates Update

1. (SBU) Summary: Indian and Pakistani Consulates watch each
others' activities carefully in Herat, while reaching out to Heratis
in the medical area, in particular. The Indian Consul follows
closely the progress of construction of the Indian-funded, 200-240
million dollar, 42-megawatt Salma dam in Cheshti Sharif district.
Since Iran boosted its visa fees and tightened up visa issuance, the
number of Afghans applying for Indian and Pakistani visas, mainly
for medical treatment, has increased. Security of their consulates
is a concern for both subcontinent Consuls. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Two Consulates eyeing each other: PRT Officer called
separately on the Indian and Pakistani Consuls, Niraj Tiwari and
Bakhtyar Khan, respectively, in October. The Indian Consulate
opened in 2003, while the Pakistani Consulate opened in 1993. Iran
and Turkmenistan also have consulates in Herat while the German
Embassy maintains a small office. The Pakistani Consul, who served
in the Pakistani embassy in Kabul under the communist regime and has
dealt with Afghan affairs off and on in Islamabad, is the only
Pakistani diplomat in Herat. He has a support staff, of about five
compatriots. He speaks Pashto and some Dari. The Indian Consul is
relatively new to Afghan issues and does not speak Dari or Pashto
but claims to understand some from vocabulary similarities with
Hindi/Urdu. He has several vice consuls to assist. Both Consuls
made a point of mentioning that their respective countries have
consulates in Jalalabad, Kandahar, and Mazar-e Sharif, in addition
to Herat, and that their subcontinent neighbor also has consulates
in those Afghan cities. Neither Consul has visited his opposite's
country.

3. (SBU) Indian medical mission: Besides keeping tabs on what the
Pakistani consulate is doing, the major activities of the Indian
consulate are medical and hydroelectric dam construction. An
eight-member Indian medical mission provides free medical
assistance, working with Afghan partners. The Indian Consul
explained that some Afghan women and their male relatives feel more
comfortable coming to Indian doctors, including male doctors, than
to Afghans, and so the Indian medical team treats a large number of
women. The Pakistani Consul volunteered that the Indian medical
team also treats Pakistani consulate staff occasionally.

4. (SBU) Salma dam project: The Indian Consulate pays close
attention to the Salma dam project, one of India's largest projects
in Afghanistan. The dam on the Hari Rud in Chishti Sharif district
of Heart province, approximately 35 km west of the provincial
boundary with Ghor, will provide 42 megawatts of electricity when
completed. It will also improve flood control and may provide some
water for irrigation. The lake behind the dam should back up water
for 16 to 17 kilometers. By Indian standards this is a small dam,
the Indian Consul stated, but it will provide a significant amount
of electricity to Herat and possibly adjacent provinces. Scheduled
to cost 200 million dollars, it will probably wind up costing 240
million. About 100 Indian nationals work with a much larger Afghan
workforce. Construction has been slowed by the fallout of security
problems in Chishti Sharif and Islamic holidays. Little work was
accomplished during Ramadan. The Indian Consul does not believe the
local security problems are aimed at disrupting dam construction and
believes that Ismail Khan, former governor and warlord of Herat,
currently Minister of Water and Power, may be playing a helpful role
in calming the security situation in the district. However, other
interlocutors, without citing any evidence, have speculated that
Iran, which may suffer diminished water flow from the Hari Rud,
which comprises the northern boundary between Afghanistan and Iran,
and which certainly will lose its commanding position (and leverage)
as provider of electricity to Herat, is stirring up the pot in
Chishti Sharif so that the dam will never be completed. The Indian
Consul optimistically predicts Salma dam will be completed sometime
in 2009.

5. (SBU) Limited Pakistani activities: The Pakistanis have no such
major project in Herat as the Salma dam. In 2007 they offered to
build a modern 200-bed hospital in Herat if the local authorities
would provide a suitable plot of land. When the local government
responded they would assist the Pakistanis in finding the land,
which the Pakistanis could purchase, Islamabad decided to offer the
hospital to Logar province.

KABUL 00002938 002 OF 002

6. (SBU) Scant PD activity: Neither consulate appears to be very
active in promoting Indian or Pakistani culture. Neither has a
cultural center. However, the Indian Consul noted many in Herat
regularly watch Indian soap operas on TV and consequently have
picked up some Hindi. Both Pakistan and India offer some
scholarships to citizens of Herat province. There is some social
contact between the two consulates, with staff occasionally hosting
their opposite numbers for dinner.

7. (SBU) But the visa business is booming: Both Consuls explained
that issuing visas to Afghans was a major part of their consulates'
work and that business was growing. The Indian Consul estimated his
staff issued about 35 to 40 visas to Afghans daily and a few to
third country nationals. The Pakistani Consul stated he issued 20
to 25 visas to Afghans daily and, as a matter of policy, would issue
visas to any third country national for six months as an insurance
policy in case of emergency evacuation. Medical treatment was the
major reason cited by both Consuls by Afghans applying for visas.
Both Consuls commented that after Iran raised its visa fees
(reportedly to 80 Euros) and tightened up visa issuance, more and
more Afghans were applying for visas. Comment: Nevertheless, the
longest lines for visas by far are still outside the large Iranian
Consulate. In addition, a recent agreement between Afghanistan and
Iran (see reftel) appears to be aimed at facilitating the visa
process, at least for businessmen. End Comment.

8. (SBU) And security a concern: The two consulates are located
within a mile of each other in downtown Herat, both on busy
thoroughfares. Following the July 7 bombing of the Indian Embassy
in Kabul, which killed more than fifty people, the Indian Consulate
has improved its physical security and obtained a larger number of
local police in front of its entrance. Following a bicycle bomb
outside the police kiosk at its street entrance July 31, which
injured one Afghan policeman and two civilians, the Pakistani
Consulate has also tightened up security. The Indian Consulate is
also dealing with the kidnapping Oct 13 of one of its nationals,
together with two Afghans, who work for an Italian company providing
services to the ISAF Regional Command/West base near the Herat
airport. This follows another kidnapping of an Indian worker in
Shindand district in 2007, who eventually was released following a
probable payment of ransom.

9. (SBU) Comment: Neither Pakistan nor India, borders Herat
province. One of the chief, if not the chief raison d'tre of each
consulate is the other's presence in Herat. The rivalry appears
civil with occasional social contact between the two staffs. With
its important Salma dam project and active medical mission, the
Indian Consulate is the more active, but the Pakistani Consul is the
more knowledgeable about Afghans and Afghanistan. Both, however,
are looking over their shoulders at the much larger Iranian
consulate and influence in Herat.

WOOD

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