New Delhi, May 17 : Union Minister for Panchayati Raj Mani Shankar Aiyar reached Kabul on Saturday on a three-day visit, and a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Local Governance was signed between the two countries.
The visit is at the invitation of Minister for Rural Rehabilitation and Development of Afghanistan Mohammad Ehsan Zia.
In his opening meeting with the Afghan Minister, Aiyar discussed local governance matters and how the Indian experiences of the Panchayati Raj decentralization could have synergies with the proposed sub-national governance structures and processes in Afghanistan.
The MoU envisages setting up of an India-Afghanistan Joint Working Group on Local Governance (JWG). The JWG will recommend a schedule of activities for bilateral exchanges between India and Afghanistan to the Joint Forum on Local Governance, with the two Ministers as its Co-Chairs.
This will include technical assistance programmes for strengthening local self governance in Afghanistan, including capacity building of individuals, institutions, and elected representatives of local administration focusing on areas relating to micro-planning, devolution of powers and funds as well as mobilization of resources.
During the visit, Aiyar will be visiting some local level community development programmes in Kapisa and Paghman provinces for gaining first hand knowledge of the functioning of the existing institutions.
He will also co-chair a symposium on sub-national governance, hosted by UNDP, along with Minister Ehsan Zia and Minister Jailani Popal from Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG), and with participation of civil society, NGOs, think-tanks, UN organizations and other international donors involved in the sub-national sector in Afghanistan.
The Minister will also have a separate interactive session with IDLG.
India has a robust assistance programme for reconstruction and development of Afghanistan, with commitments of over 850 million dollars.
The visit of Aiyar opens up a new phase in India's assistance programme with focus on institutional linkages and capacity development between the sub-national institutes of the two countries at the village, district and provincial level.