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India clears funds for key projects in Afghanistan


New Delhi : Unfazed by the July 7 blasts outside its embassy in Kabul, India Thursday reaffirmed its commitment to bolstering peace and stability in Afghanistan by clearing funds for the construction of the parliament building and the Indian chancery complex in the Afghan capital.

A cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, cleared the two projects, which would be constructed at a revised estimated cost of Rs.950 crore (Rs.9.50 billion or around $200 million.)

“The construction of the parliament building will be a visible symbol of India’s contribution towards strengthening and rebuilding democracy in Afghanistan,” Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Prithviraj Chavan told reporters here.

The foundation stone of the Afghan parliament building was laid in the presence of Manmohan Singh during his visit to Kabul in August 2005.

“The chancery is expected to be completed in 16 months. The parliament building would take three years,” Chavan said.

“The construction of the chancery complex would provide a secure and functional base for India’s diplomatic functions in Kabul,” he stressed.

The government’s decision to clear funds for these crucial projects that symbolize India’s increasing stakes in stability and democracy in the violence-torn country comes nearly four months after the suicide blasts outside the Indian mission in Kabul.

The terror attack killed 54 people including two Indian diplomats and two security personnel. It was the first attack of this kind on an Indian mission abroad.

India blamed Pakistan’s Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) for masterminding the blasts – a charge that was vehemently repudiated by Islamabad. The two countries held a special meeting of their anti-terror mechanism to discuss the Kabul blasts that had threatened to strain their bilateral ties.

The approval of funds for these projects is a clear signal that nothing will deter India from carrying out reconstruction activities in Afghanistan for which it has already pledged $1.2 billion.