No exit policy, India assures Afghanistan
NEW DELHI (PAN) India on Monday assured Afghanistan that its $2 billion humanitarian aid pledge was just the beginning of a process to reach out to the provinces and districts of the war-torn country.
Addressing a conference in New Delhi on “Doing Business with Afghanistan”, the Afghan finance minister asserted his country would continue to remain stable beyond the US troop drawdown in 2014.
Jointly organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FICCI) and the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACC), the event is supported by the Export Promotion Agency of Afghanistan and the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency.
Khurshid told the participants: "We have an open arms approach and we hope that your confidence in yourself will reflect the confidence you repose in India."
As the lead country in supporting Afghanistan's nation-building process, India had no exit policy and would be with the ally for so long as it desired, in good times and bad times, he promised.
It was important for Indian businesses to see and seize the enormous opportunities in Afghanistan, and once business-to-business ties were firmly established, they would become major stepping stones and hubs for India's outreach to South Asia, extending to Europe and Russia, he stressed.
About Afghanistan’s efforts to rebuild its institutions, the minister remarked: "We should say that it should succeed and express the confidence that Afghanistan will succeed."
A paper on 'Doing Business with Afghanistan' was released by Khurshid. Also, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between FICCI and ACCI.
Finance Minister Dr. Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal reiterated the Afghan government’s commitment to unleashing more and deeper reforms to make the business environment friendlier.
"The future of Afghanistan -- resting on the planks of transit, trade and tourism -- will positively contribute to internal stability and stability in the region," he said, assuring Indian investors that they would be dealt with on a privilege basis.
He called upon the international business community not to be swayed by doomsday prediction of chaos in Afghanistan as the country was undergoing three major transitions - security, political and economic.
About security transition, he said foreign troops would withdraw from the country by the end of 2014. Zakhilwal claimed security country had been strengthened and the Afghans were whole-heartedly supporting the efforts of their security forces.
Zakhilwal believed after the 2014 elections, Afghanistan would be more secure, stable, united and process-oriented. "Our young and talented populace is now in-charge of the affairs of the country and these young people are keen to ensure that apart from internal integration, Afghanistan integrates fully with the rest of the world.”
All the 10 candidates currently in the election fray had given highest priority to building an inclusive society and were willing to forsake their winning ability for the sake of inclusiveness, the minister explained.
FICCI President Sidharth Birla said they were designated as the implementing agency of activities under the confidence-building measures.
"We have a key role in this effort to unlock Afghanistan's investment and business potential, besides providing an opportunity for Afghanistan and its extended neighbourhood to engage in a sincere dialogue to build confidence and promote economic cooperation," he said.
He mentioned that India's efforts in the Chabahar port were aimed at providing alternative access to the sea. India was also improving airline connectivity for passenger and cargo flights, he continued.
VS Sahney, President, SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that it is their fervent wish to pursue the agenda of integrating Afghanistan in the regional economic process under SAARC.
"We need to look to an inter-related South Asian future where trade and cross border links flourish and bring prosperity to all our people. As a region blessed with an abundance of natural and human resources, a youthful population and a unique spirit of enterprise, this should surely be an achievable goal."
The conference is taking a close look at investment opportunities and sector-specific challenges in mining and energy, agriculture, food processing and packaging, infrastructure and logistics, services (banking, insurance, health & education), regulation and prospects for regional cooperation through trade and investment.
Khurshid cited the 1961 Hindi film "Kabuliwala" to underline the close links and trade ties between the two nations and said India pursued an "open arms approach" to Afghanistan.
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