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Afghan red carpet for Indian business

Posted on Nov 10, 09:53PM | IANS

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai Saturday promised a red carpet welcome for Indian business and industry to set up shop in his country.

"Indian business need not be shy. We would like to invite you on a red carpet, but you need to arrive at the red carpet to take advantage of those opportunities," Karzai said at a high-level business session organised by top industry organisations here.

Karzai pointed out that Afghanistan is "ripe and ready" for investments from India and offers lots of opportunities for the Indian industry to set up operations there, at the session organised by Confederation of Indian Industry, FICCI and ASSOCHAM.

Explaining the tough and growing competition in Afghanistan, Karzai said that a telecom company which was set up there with an investment of five million dollar investment is not worth around USD 600-700 million and the same applied to other sectors also.

"You need not worry about your investments. Not only will the Afghan laws protect you but also the Afghan people will add to your profits," Karzai assured the captains of Indian business and industry at the session.

The visiting dignitary spoke about the rich mineral resources in his country and revealed that an Indian conglomerate was negotiating for an iron-ore mine with hopes of signing a contract shortly.

Appreciating India's assistance of USUSD two billion, Karzai said that Afghanistan's foreign exchange reserves, including gold, have swelled from USUSD 180 million in 2002 to USUSD seven billion now, a decade later.

Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said that the bilateral trade between India and Afghanistan was USD 600 million last year and could easily achieve one billion dollar within the next three years.

Sharma, while expressing India's commitment to Afghanistan's reconstruction and rehabilitation, said: "Afghanistan has the potential to absorb much more than the committed USD 16 billion (including India's two billion dollars) of global development assistance in this decade."

CII President Adi Godrej outlined a five-point agenda to strengthen India-Afghanistan ties.

Godrej suggested Afghanistan to embrace a frugal innovation approach to help small and micro entrepreneurs and women under small development projects.

He also suggested setting up of an India-Afghanistan business forum with Indian industry working in areas of skill development with focus on 'train the trainer', and holding an India show in Kabul with focus on SMEs (small and medium enterprises).

Rana Kapoor, ASSOCHAM's Senior Vice-President and FICCI President R.V. Kanoria also spoke on the occasion.

Karzai, who completed his higher education in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, arrived here Friday afternoon on the first leg of his four-day visit to India.

On Monday, Karzai will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi and discuss a broad range of issues concerning the two countries, besides other international issues.