New Afghan Parliament House donated by the people of India…
by Koushik Das
InSerbia Network News
Dec. 26, 2015
On his way back to India from Russia, Prime Minister Modi arrived in the Afghan capital to inaugurate the new Parliament House. Upon his arrival in Kabul, the visiting premier received a warm welcome, as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was present at the airport. Before inaugurating the new House, Modi and Ghani held delegation-level talks at the Afghan Presidential Office, popularly known as Dilkosha Palace, to discuss different aspects of bilateral ties. Later, Prime Minister Modi addressed the Afghan Parliament.
The Indian premier said it was unfortunate that the construction work of the Parliament building, which was started in 2009, missed three completion deadlines since 2011 and went over-budget by double the original costing of USD 45 million. Meanwhile, he assured the Afghan parliamentarians that India would always back the war-ravaged country’s effort to ensure peace. At the same time, he said that Afghanistan “will succeed only when terrorism no longer flows across the border”. The PM told the House: “We must support Afghanistan without timelines because a new cloud of extremism is rising, even as the old ones continue to darken our skies.”
Prime Minister Modi also sent a strong message to Pakistan that is often accused by Afghanistan of sponsoring the Taliban insurgency, saying: “There are some who did not want us to be here. There were those who saw sinister design in our presence here. But we are here because you had faith in us.”
Modi further assured Afghanistan that India, which has invested around USD 2 billion in aid and reconstruction in the country and trained scores of Afghan officers, would continue providing financial helps to Afghanistan in the coming years. Addressing the Parliament, he announced 500 scholarships for children of martyrs of Afghan armed forces. “Afghanistan with abiding faith in tradition of Jirga has chosen democracy against challenges that would have defeated lesser people,” he told the House.
For his part, President Ghani called the friendship between India and Afghanistan “antiquated and bound by a thousand ties”, stressing that Kabul would always be grateful to New Delhi for its “valuable assistance” as his country weathers “hard times”. “I am pleased to welcome Prime Minister Modi to Kabul. Though, India and Afghanistan need no introduction, we are bound by a thousand ties. We have stood by each other in the best and worst of times,” added the Afghan president.
Later, the Indian PM also held separate talks with Chief Executive Officer of Afghanistan Dr Abdullah Abdullah and former President Hamid Karzai. Incidentally, Modi arrived in Kabul just a couple of days after India delivered three of four Russian Mi-25 helicopter gunships to Afghanistan.
On Friday evening, the Indian PM also made a surprise visit to Pakistan. After landing in Kabul from Moscow, Modi called his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif to wish him Happy Birthday. Sharif told Modi: “Why don’t you drop by since you will be flying over my country?” Modi readily agreed and reached Lahore at around 5pm (local time). At the airport, the Indian premier was received by Prime Minister Sharif with a warm hug. They took a helicopter to reach Sharif’s ancestral home “Raiwind Palace” in Jati Umra, where his granddaughter’s wedding was on. The two PMs discussed different bilateral issues and agreed to continue and enhance contacts, and work together to establish good neighbourly relations. After spending one hour at Sharif’s residence, Modi left for India and reached New Delhi at 7:30pm (local time). Prime Minister Sharif, too, accompanied Modi back to the Lahore airport to see him off.
Upon his arrival in New Delhi, Prime Minister Modi tweeted: “Spent a warm evening with Sharif family home. Nawaz Sahab’s birthday and his granddaughter’s marriage made it a double celebration”. Apart from Premier Sharif, two big leaders from both countries had their birthday on December 25. Tenth Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was born on December 25, 1924 in Gwalior, while Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, was born on December 25, 1876. Jinnah, the lawyer-turned-politician, died on September 11, 1948.
Different Pakistani political parties have welcomed Modi’s surprise visit, as he, in a dramatically spontaneous gesture, becomes the first Indian PM to visit Pakistan since Atal Behari Vajpayee in 2014. However, the Indian opposition parties have raised a serious question – Can Modi’s unorthodox brand of diplomacy lead to lasting peace? We have to wait to see how surprise plays its role in Prime Minister Modi’s Pakistan policy.