Narendra Modi inaugurates Stor Palace in Kabul via video link
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India on Monday said it was saddened that Afghanistan continued to face challenges from terrorism sponsored by external elements as it underlined its position as the partner of choice for building a stable and prosperous Afghanistan.
Speaking at the inauguration of the restored Stor Palace in Kabul via a video call, Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought to underline—albeit subtly—the difference between those who are causing violence and instability in Afghanistan and those lending a helping hand in reconstruction and rebuilding the war-torn nation. “Fewer things give greater joy than getting together with good friends to celebrate successful completion of joint initiatives. You and I have been fortunate to have done so on important occasions in the past months,” Modi said in his message to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Monday.
Modi pointed out that in less than a year, India had handed over to Afghanistan a new parliament building, the Salma dam and now the restored Stor Palace (also known as the Star Palace or Kasre-estar). The palace was built during the reign of Amir Abdul Rahman Khan in 1880 and gradually developed later under Amir Habibullah Khan and Amir Amanullah Khan. In 1919, one of the rooms in the palace was the setting for the signing of the Rawalpindi Agreement, by which Afghanistan became an independent sovereign state
In May, India and Afghanistan had signed a pact on increasing connectivity through Iran. “It manifested our clear and common determination to build new pathways for Afghanistan’s economic progress and prosperity and, a month later, in June this year, we joined hands and inaugurated the Afghanistan-India Friendship Dam,” Modi said.
“The Salma dam will revive and renew not just the economy and agriculture of the Herat region of Afghanistan. But will also build a strong and lasting pillar of support for Afghanistan’s overall growth and development,” he said.
The handing over of the Stor Palace “is an entirely different, yet in many ways more fundamental, dimension of our engagement... because it brings back to life a valuable landmark of Afghanistan’s cultural heritage,” Modi said.
Given the long tradition of friendship that India and Afghanistan enjoy, “it saddens us to see that your proud nation continues to be challenged by externally sponsored instruments and entities of violence and terror”, Modi said. The reference was to Pakistan, which is widely believed to be supporting the rebel Sunni Taliban that wants to overthrow the government in Kabul and replace it with an Islamic emirate. “Let me assure the people of Afghanistan that in your quest to build a prosperous Afghanistan and to bring peace, security and stability to your society the 1.25 billion people of India will always be on your side... We want each Afghan to flourish and your society to be benefited from fruits of economic growth. Whatever may be the odds, India will work with you for a bright future for all Afghans,” Modi said.
Since 2001, when the US-led international coalition threw out the Taliban from Kabul, India has pledged more than $2 billion in aid and reconstruction for Afghanistan, making it one of the largest donors.
During a visit in 2011, then prime minister Manmohan Singh committed to renovate and restore the Stor Palace, located in the ministry of foreign affairs campus. The project was to be completed in 36 months, starting from July 2012.
The restored building is expected to house the Afghan ministry of foreign affairs, and will act as the venue for the government’s official domestic and international events.