New Delhi: India
Thursday unveiled its vision of promoting economic rejuvenation
and stability of Afghanistan by asking companies from the region
to invest in that country in the spirit of solidarity, despite the
risks, and called for CEOs to replace generals to lead the
"We need to offer a narrative of opportunity to counter the
anxiety of withdrawal, uncertainty, instability and foreign
interference," External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna told the
first regional conclave organised in India to encourage private
sector investment in Afghanistan.
"India will continue to pursue its vision to stabilize Afghanistan
through trade and investment and regional cooperation," he said
while jointly inaugurating the conclave with his Afghan
counterpart Zalmai Rassoul.
"We invite international investors and regional countries to join
in this vision for Afghanistan individually or in partnership with
others," he said.
Afghanistan robustly backed this approach. "I believe greater
investments results in increased economic national activities in
any country including, but not limited to, additional revenues,
job creation, income generation opportunities which in turn leads
to increased prosperity and service delivery," said Rassoul.
Over 80 Afghan companies, 130 Indian companies and 70
international companies from 33 countries, including Pakistan,
China, Iran and the Gulf countries, participated in the summit.
The Afghan delegation included five senior ministers, including
Rassoul, Commerce and Industry Minister Anwar-ul-Haq Ahady,
Finance Minister Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal, Minister of Mines
Wahidullah Shahrani and Agriculture Minister Mohd. Asef Rahimi.
The recommendations of the day-long investment conclave will be
submitted as a framework at the Tokyo Conference July 8 where
international donors will pledge funds for Afghanistan after
international troops leave the violence-torn country in 2014.
The key recommendations of the summit included providing the
private sector investment protection and risk mitigation,
providing incentives for investing in Afghanistan, and the
creation of an international fund for SMEs.
The conclave identified key sectors for investment in Afghanistan
that included natural resources, manufacturing, infrastructure,
agriculture, IT and telecommunications.
Acknowledging the security concerns of businesses about risks of
investment in Afghanistan in the run-up to the phased withdrawal
of international troops by 2014, Krishna exhorted the companies
from the region to act in solidarity, saying if companies invest
together and in numbers, they will all benefit from the collective
security of venturing together.
"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
"We feel that foreign investment and domestic private sector
development, both small and large scale, can play that role. Let
the grey suits of company executives take the place of olive green
or desert brown fatigues of soldiers; and chief executive
officers, the place of (military) generals," he said.
"They can also play a larger stabilizing role," he added.
Noting that the military withdrawal should not result in a
political or security vacuum that will be filled by extremists
once again, the Indian minister said there should be "something
productive" in its place.
"This vision requires international support in the form of
institutional finance and foreign investment," he said,
recognising the presence of representatives from the World Bank,
Asian Development Bank and other international financial
institutions at the day-long event.
Dispelling security fears, senior ministers from Afghanistan
assured Indian investors a business-friendly environment and said
there are 17 key sectors, including mines, cement, steel and
agriculture, in which they can invest and reap good returns.
"Please don't write off Afghanistan. We are willing to pay
personal attention to facilitate your investment in our country,"
Commerce and Industry Minister Anwar-ul-Haq Ahady here.
"We allow 100 percent foreign ownership of enterprises, easy
repatriation of profits, treat foreign investors identical to
domestic ones, and we allow accelerated depreciation," said Ahady.
Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma described Afghanistan
as a country close to India's heart and said Indian companies will
be offering cutting-edge technologies and expertise for the
reconstruction of Afghanistan.
He also announced that he would soon lead an Indian business
delegation to Afghanistan, in a bid to enhance economic
engagements between the two countries.
"The visit will happen soon. Officials of the two countries will
work out the dates," Sharma told reporters on the sidelines of the
Delhi Investment Summit on Afghanistan here.