India has signed a $20 billion deal with Saudi Arabia for its “anti-terrorism” program, including funding for counterterrorism operations, and announced plans to build a “smart city” near Riyadh.
But it also announced plans for a new $100 billion mega-project, the National Highways Development Authority (NHDA), to build and extend the country’s “smart highway” network.
The project is part of the government’s “new vision for India’s future” and the largest of its kind in the world, according to the countrys Minister of Urban Development and Urban Development Research (MDAR) Ajay Kumar, who announced the $20-billion deal in New Delhi on Friday.
NDAR is set to complete its work by 2022.
The deal comes at a time of rising tension between India and Saudi Arabia over Kashmir, which has claimed more than 70,000 lives and has become a flashpoint for the conflict.
The two nations have fought a long-running proxy war in Kashmir that has killed thousands.
The Saudi government has long claimed to have a large share in India’s Kashmir dispute, saying the territory belongs to Pakistan, while India says it is part and parcel of India.
“I believe the $40 billion in NDAR will be the best investment for our country,” Kumar told NDAR members on Friday in New Dehli.
India has been trying to build roads, airports, railways and highways in Kashmir since independence in 1947.
The NDAR plan will help build a network of highways, which will be connected to the national highways, railways, electricity networks and water distribution networks, said the government.
“It will also be used for development of cities,” Kumar said, adding that the government has already approved NDAR funding for “smart cities.”
The NDAs plans call for building up a network to connect the country with its other regions and countries.
The plan calls for constructing a network that is “smart, efficient and affordable,” according to Kumar.
“This will ensure the connectivity of our citizens, the rural and urban, in a way that can enable them to enjoy their dreams and live a life that is more secure and happy,” Kumar added.
NDAs projects are already under construction in China, Pakistan and Nepal.
India’s NDAs also includes plans to construct a network in China’s Sichuan province to facilitate China’s Silk Road Economic Belt.
India will also build a highway connecting India and Nepal and a major transit corridor from Bangladesh to India, Kumar said.
“We have a huge number of connectivity projects going on in the country, but the one that has been getting the biggest attention is the Smart City project,” Kumar, an economist and MDAR member, said.
India plans to spend $10 billion to build the $100-billion highway, which is estimated to cost around $80 billion, he said.
The NHDA will build the highway, connecting India with Pakistan and Bangladesh, and the NHDA plan will include a $10-billion road and bridge project, he added.
Kumar said that India will be working with the UNDP to improve the infrastructure of India’s cities.
“The NHDA is not just about roads and highways,” Kumar explained.
“Its also about the infrastructure for cities, including smart cities.
It will also include a new Smart City that will enable us to have greater economic opportunities for the people of the country.”