India urges private sector to invest in Afghanistan

India urges private sector to invest in Afghanistan

NEW DELHI - Reuters
India urges private sector to invest in Afghanistan

Afghan children sit on the ground next to a soldier during a patrol of the town of Manugay in the Pech River Valley of Afghanistan’s Kunar Province. India is promoting the unrest-hit country as a good place to invest in, arguing that this may contribute to stabilization. REUTERS photo

India urged its vast private sector to invest in Afghanistan as a low tariff destination, saying that could help stabilize the country as Western nations begin to pull back troops after nearly 11 years of support.

Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna said on Thursday he recognised Indian businesses’ concerns about Afghanistan, especially in the run-up to 2014 when most foreign troops will leave, but if companies invested together there would be security in numbers.

“We need to offer a narrative of opportunity to counter the anxiety of withdrawal, uncertainty, instability and foreign interference,” Krishna told a conference hosted by India to encourage private investment in Afghanistan.

“Investments can provide that hope for employment, training and opportunity for the future. We encourage our industries to venture into Afghanistan in numbers together with Afghan partners,” he said.

Mineral-rich Afghanistan
Krishna suggested there was opportunity in mineral-rich Afghanistan’s location sandwiched between the energy resources of Central Asia, Iran and the Gulf on the one hand and the booming markets of China and India.

Prior to the ousting of the Taliban regime in 2001, India’s arch rival Pakistan held almost exclusive rights to trade with Afghanistan.

Now, Islamabad is deeply concerned about India’s expanding role in Afghanistan, seeing it as a move to encircle it.

China has also signaled a desire to tap into Afghanistan’s mineral reserves.

Both China and India have made little headway since, held back by security concerns, as well as poor infrastructure and logistics in the landlocked mountainous country.

Violence in Afghanistan is at its worst in years, raising concerns that newly minted Afghan security forces may struggle to hold their own against a raging Taliban insurgency and that parts of the country may slip into civil war after the Western withdrawal.