PM Narendra Modi and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani on Monday jointly inaugurated Kabul’s Stor Palace via video-conference and called the monument a “setting for many momentous historical events”.
“The inauguration signalled and showed our joint commitment to strengthening the foundations of modern Afghanistan. The India-Afghanistan-Iran transit corridor agreement that we signed in May this year was another landmark in our partnership,” Modi said.
“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,” he said.
Modi also recalled the time when he inaugurated the Afghan Parliament building on December 25 last year.
“Today’s video inauguration of Stor palace is an entirely different, yet in many ways more fundamental, dimension of our engagement. I say this because it brings back to life a valuable landmark of Afghanistan’s cultural heritage,” the Prime Minister said.
“The Stor Palace has been the setting for many momentous historical events. To those who cannot see beyond shadows of violence in Afghanistan, the restored Stor Palace is a reminder of the glory of Afghanistan’s rich traditions.”
He said that for the Afghan people, it revived the beauty, the richness and splendour of lost memories of Afghan society.
The Indian government had promised to help Afghanistan renovate many of its war damaged structures, among them the Executive Block of the Afghan Parliament building and the Stor Palace — also known as Darul Aman Palace — in Kabul city.
The Stor Palace was built during the reign of Amir Abdul Rahman Khan in 1880.
The palace was gradually developed later on in the reign of 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.
Amir Habibullah Khan, the late King of Afghanistan, used to live in the palace. Later, the palace was used by renowned intellectual, reformer and the first Afghan Foreign Minister Mahmood Tarzi (1919-22 and 1924-27), as an office.
The palace also housed offices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs till 1965, when most functions were re-located to a modern building in the vicinity of Stor Palace.
President Ghani in his remarks on Monday recalled that the Government of India in Exile formed by Raja Mahendra Pratap had unilaterally declared Independence from the British rule in 1915 from this palace.
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, during his visit to Afghanistn in 2011, committed to renovate and restore the Stor Palace located in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Campus.
Though the proposed renovation was estimated to cost about $5.7 million, an initial grant of $4 million was committed.
The work was entrusted to Agha Khan Trust for Culture and the project was to be completed in 36 months starting from July 2012.
Subsequently, the ministry sanctioned the balance funding of $1.7 million in July 2015 and the project was scheduled to be completed by the first week of August 2016.
The renovated and restored building will provide high-quality space for hosting official domestic and international events and functions of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Afghan government.
It serves as another example of India’s reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.