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November 23, 2001
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Revival of Indian hospital in Kabul to provide badly needed relief

P Jayaram in New Delhi

India's decision to revive a hospital in Kabul will be widely welcomed by the people of this war-battered nation as it is the only such health facility in the whole of Afghanistan, Indian diplomats who had served in Kabul said.

The three-storeyed Indira Gandhi Hospital for Women and Children, which was commissioned in the late sixties, was also the best equipped in the entire country and provided not only treatment to women and children but also training to Afghan doctors, they added.

New Delhi decided to revive the hospital, whose facilities had deteriorated in the past few years, during the visit of a high-level official delegation to Kabul on Wednesday to re-establish its diplomatic presence in the Afghan capital.

It was decided that eight doctors and medical staff, who were part of the delegation, would stay behind to help put the hospital operations back on track.

Officials said the decision to revive the Indira Gandhi Hospital was a demonstration of India's 'long-standing ties of solidarity with the Afghan people'.

"It (revival of hospital) will make a good impact. Even during the Soviet presence, we did not discriminate between patients. We treated government soldiers and the mujahideen (holy warriors)," said former foreign secretary J N Dixit who served as envoy to Afghanistan between 1981-85.

Under an agreement with the then Afghan government, India regularly sent senior doctors and professors from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi to the Kabul hospital to train Afghan doctors.

"Their visits, which lasted for six to 12 weeks were eagerly looked forward to by the Afghan people and even the president's family members were no exception," said a former diplomat.

"Doctors in the backwaters of Afghanistan, like Herat and Kandahar, had no way of keeping pace with developments in the field of medicine and the visits by the Indian doctors were a great help," he added.

Even when it had no official presence in Kabul, India continued to provide medical relief to the people of Afghanistan.

New Delhi has been operating a hospital in Farkhor, on the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border, for more than a year to provide treatment to Northern Alliance fighters and refugees fleeing from the Taleban rule.

Assassinated Northern Alliance commander Ahmed Shah Masood was reportedly brought to the hospital after being critically wounded in a suicide bomb attack by two Arabs disguised as television reporters in early September.

Indo-Asian News Service

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