New Delhi: India called for joint ventures (JVs) between Indian and Afghan businesses to provide employment opportunities in the war-torn country and as part of efforts to stabilize the Afghan economy. US-led international troops plan to exit Afghanistan starting next year.
Commerce secretary Rahul Khullar identified textiles, steel and agro-processing as sectors that would benefit both sides, given Afghanistan’s vast natural and mineral resources.
Commerce secretary Rahul Khullar
“There is clearly potential for setting up bilateral projects in textiles, agro-processing and small and medium enterprises in Afghanistan,” Khullar told a group of 12 parliamentarians from Afghanistan at an event organized by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci). “It is for you to encourage Indian businessmen to go into partnership with Afghan businessmen,” Khullar said. “I think there is sufficient goodwill and support available in terms of money and financial capital.”
Mohammed Noor Akbari talks about Afghanistan’s search for alternate trade routes and what India can do to assist his country further
The challenge, he said, was to find “human skills, technology and entrepreneurship, and marrying the three and putting a business on the ground”.
In terms of trade, Khullar said Afghanistan had not yet taken advantage of the trade concessions offered by India last year for least-developed countries under the aegis of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.
Mohammed Noor Akbari, spokesman for the Afghan delegation, sought India’s help in building urban transport infrastructure, agriculture, mining and health. He sought more scholarships for Afghan students in medicine and engineering courses, and an alternative route for trade other than through Pakistan.
“We need to think of the route through Iran, through the Chabahar port,” Akbari said. Though not ideal, “we should also think of an air bridge to ensure trade between our two countries,” he added.
India and Pakistan are vying for influence in Afghanistan. New Delhi, which considers Afghanistan a part of its extended neighbourhood, wants a friendly or neutral government in Kabul. Pakistan wants an administration it can rely on in case of a war with India.
“We understand there are security concerns, but we also know that the Indian government and the people are conscious of the evolving situation in Afghanistan,” Akbari said. He pointed out that under a strategic agreement Afghanistan and India signed in October, during Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s visit to India, New Delhi promised to help restore stability in Afghanistan. “Only India can help us do this,” Akbari said.