"No external power" can stop the development of Afghanistan or its friendship with India, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a message of solidarity with the people of Afghanistan. Both the countries wish to see their regions free of the "grave" threat of terrorism and extremism, he added.
While mentioning that India supports a comprehensive ceasefire to end the hostilities, Prime Minister Modi also expressed serious concerns over increasing incidents of violence in Afghanistan including cowardly targeting of innocent citizens, journalists and activists.
Modi was speaking at a virtual meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani which was organised to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the construction of the Lalandar dam by India in Afghanistan that would help in meeting the drinking water requirement of Kabul city.
"I want to assure every Afghan brother and sister, from Badakhshan to Nimroz and Herat to Kandahar that India stands with you. At every step of your journey of patience, courage and determination, India will be with you," Modi said.
In his remarks, Ghani said peace in Afghanistan is within the grasp if parties and their backers in the Taliban embrace a true political solution, seen as a clear reference to Pakistan.
The Afghan President said terrorism must be seen as a "full eco-system" and not as isolated groups or individuals, noting that the "destructive forces" are threatening the future of the region.
Modi said strengthening internal unity among Afghan people is very important and exuded confidence that a united Afghanistan will be able to face any challenge.
"No external power can stop the development of Afghanistan or the India-Afghanistan friendship," he said.
India has been a major stakeholder in Afghanistan and it has extended developmental assistance to the tune of around USD 3 billion in the last few years to the country.
"We are concerned about the increasing violence in Afghanistan. Innocent citizens, journalists and activists are being cowardly targeted. We have called for an immediate end to the violence, and we immediately support a comprehensive ceasefire," Modi said.
"Violence is retaliation for peace, and the two cannot go together. As a close neighbour and strong strategic partner, both India and Afghanistan want to see their region free from the grave crisis of terrorism and extremism," he said.
The prime minister noted that India has been supportive of a peace process that is led, owned and controlled by Afghanistan.
"In the success of Afghanistan, we see the success of India and its entire region," Modi said.
In his brief address at the meeting, Ghani said all stakeholders must be asked to respect "rules of sovereignty'' and stop giving "sanctuaries" and interfering in the affairs of their neighbours, in an apparent reference to Pakistan.
"Peace in Afghanistan is within grasp if parties and their backers in the Taliban embrace a true political solution. But Afghan people will not submit or surrender. It must be understood that our security forces are not defeated," he said.
The Afghan president also cautioned that if his country plunges into uncertainty, then the consequences for the region and the world will be "dire".
Describing India as a true partner, Ghani thanked it for "gift of water" and said the Shatoot dam will inject sufficient water into Kabul river.
He said India's assistance provided the foundation of Afghanistan's democratic stability and prosperity.
"India's assistance is iconically marked on our landscapes from the Salma dam to the transmission lines to the parliament of Afghanistan, the symbol of our democracy," he said. "We would like to thank (Rabindranath) Tagore again for having given the Indian people the image of Kabuliwala and today on behalf of Kabuliwalas, I would like to say thank you to you," he told Modi.
The Lalandar dam, popularly known as Shatoot is a part of India's new development assistance for Afghanistan.
"The Lalandar dam would meet the safe drinking water needs of Kabul City, provide irrigation water to nearby areas, rehabilitate the existing irrigation and drainage network, aid in flood protection and management efforts in the area, and also provide electricity to the region," the Ministry of External Affairs said.
It is the second major dam being built by India in Afghanistan after the Salma Dam, which was inaugurated by Modi in June 2016.
"Signing of the MoU on Lalandar (Shatoot) dam is a reflection of India's strong and long-term commitment towards the socio-economic development of Afghanistan and the enduring partnership between our two countries," the MEA said.
It said India has completed more than 400 projects covering all 34 provinces of Afghanistan so far.
With PTI Inputs
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