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Business News/ News / World/  Expecting a lot from India: Afghanistan deputy commerce minister
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Expecting a lot from India: Afghanistan deputy commerce minister

Mozammel Shinwari says Afghanistan hopes to bounce back with help of mineral resources after US troop pullout

A file photo of the site for iron ore mines at Hajigak in Afghanistan where a consortium of Indian companies led by Steel Authority of India has won three blocks.Premium
A file photo of the site for iron ore mines at Hajigak in Afghanistan where a consortium of Indian companies led by Steel Authority of India has won three blocks.

New Delhi: India can play a much bigger role in Afghanistan given the historically cordial relationship both countries share, Mozammel Shinwari, deputy minister of commerce and industry of Afghanistan, says. In an interview on the sidelines of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) Business Leaders Conclave this month, Shinwari said that though the withdrawal of US troops by this year end will have an impact on the Afghanistan economy, the nation hopes to bounce back with the help of revenue from its mineral resources. Edited excerpts:

How do you see India-Afghanistan trade relations evolving?

We have a historical relationship with India. The bilateral trade relationship is improving, but the only hurdle is the transit through Pakistan. They allow us to export to India through Wagah border, but they don’t allow us to import from India through Wagah. That is something we are pushing for... We are currently negotiating with them on the matter. If we have that access, it will reduce the distance to India. Wagah is only eight hours’ drive from our border. Right now we are exporting fresh fruit, dry fruit and medical herbs to India. Whatever we are importing comes by air. We are working on another trade corridor through Iran, to link India not only to Afghanistan but also to Central Asia.

What is you expectation from India when it comes to trade and investment?

India can play an important role since you have some of the big companies. Right now, one of the iron ore mining contracts is given to an Indian consortium of steel firms. The site is in the central part of Afghanistan in the Bamyan province and is quite peaceful. There is no insurgency in the region. This is one of the biggest iron mines in our country and it’s a multi-billion dollar project. Our new mining law is currently being discussed by our parliament. Once that is approved, we will be able to sign contracts. But there are more opportunities to invest. You have big companies operating on multinational level. Even they can produce inside Afghanistan and export to other parts of the world.

The US is withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan. How do you see it impacting the economy and trade of your country?

Right now we are in discussion with the US for signing the bilateral security agreement through which we will officially allow 15,000 troops to stay back in Afghanistan. They will play a supportive role. They will not be combating insurgents. They will be supporting our national army, training them and working with them. Of course, withdrawal of US army will have its impact on Afghanistan because our economy is an aid-based one. There is no doubt that for some time our economy will slow down. But in the long run, when we have our revenue generation from mineral resources, we will achieve the real economic growth rate of Afghanistan.

Do you think India should play a more strategic and military role in Afghanistan?

Absolutely. India is our historical friend even before the existence of Pakistan. Recently, we signed the military partnership agreement between the two governments. Indian Army will be providing training to our army. So yes, India can play a major role because India is the superpower in the region. The good relationship that we are currently sharing with India will have an important role. We are expecting a lot from India in terms of political and financial support as well as support in other fields. We are hoping that our ties get further enhanced.

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Published: 26 Jan 2014, 11:53 PM IST
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