Karzai pitches for investment as Manmohan renews support for development
Visiting Afghan President Hamid Karzai Monday made a strong pitch for investment by Indian business in his country as he and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reaffirmed their shared vision of a "stable, strong, united, sovereign and prosperous Afghanistan".
Addressing a joint press conference with the prime minister after their delegation level talks here, Karzai sought to assure Indian business about the "better" investment climate in his country where the international forces are set for a drawdown by 2014 end.
"My visit this time to India is focused particularly in talking to and asking and requesting Indian business to come to Afghanistan," Karzai said, adding, "Investment opportunities in Afghanistan today are better. A country that is more confident of its future and that is willing to receive investments from its friends."
On Saturday, the Afghan president had wooed India Inc to invest in his country, telling them not to be "shy when thinking of Afghanistan".
He had offered India Inc a "red carpet" if they invest in Afghanistan.
India has provided Kabul with USD 2 billion in development aid, making it the fifth largest bilateral donor.
New Delhi had also hosted an Investment Summit on Afghanistan in July and called for greater investment in that country.
Karzai was full of praise for Manmohan Singh terming him as a "good friend" of Afghanistan and praised India as a "very generous and front-line supporter" for Afghanistan's re-construction and development.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the two leaders had reviewed the progress in implementation of the Strategic Partnership Agreement, which they had signed last year for deepening security and economic links.
The prime minister said the two had discussed "the need to develop a strategic economic partnership, which will build on our economic synergies for mutual benefit".
He also "reiterated to President Karzai our belief that Afghanistan's regional economic integration will contribute to overall prosperity and stability in the region".
The prime minister said India remains committed to supporting Afghanistan in its development efforts.
India and Afghanistan inked four agreements to cooperate in areas of social welfare, fertilizer, coal mining and youth affairs.
Manmohan Singh said that with signing of the MoU, the "Third Phase of Small Development Projects would be launched to address the socio-economic needs of people throughout Afghanistan".
He said India supports the "nation-building efforts of Afghanistan, especially in the areas of governance, security and development". Karzai is reported to be exploring prospects of enhancing New Delhi's role in training Afghan security forces with the drawdown of international forces set for 2014 end.
The prime minister said India supports efforts to achieve "a lasting peace in Afghanistan that brings together all sections of Afghan society while preserving the achievements of the last decade, including in the area of women's rights. We respect the choices that the Afghan people make of their own free will."
Karzai also thanked India for being a "very generous and kind partner and front line supporter in Afghanistan's development and reconstruction".
"Indian experts are busy in re-building and re-constructing Afghanistan. India has offered us nearly USD 2 billion for development. This includes education, health, social development and defence," he added.
"Government of Afghanistan through me today conveyed the deep gratitude to the people of India for the trust they have shown in the past many years.
"Manmohan Singh as prime minister is a great personality. I find your (Singh) support strengthening and encouraging for the Afghanistan people," he added.
India's reconstruction programmes in Afghanistan are in the areas of infrastructure projects, humanitarian assistance, small and community based development projects, and education and capacity development.
India has built the 218 km road project from Zaranj to Delaram in southwestern Afghanistan to facilitate movement of goods and services to the Iranian border, and, onward, to the Chahbahar Port. It was inaugurated in 2009. A consortium of seven Indian companies led by the state-owned Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) has won a USD 10.3 billion deal to mine three iron ore blocks in the Bamiyan province, 130 km west of Kabul.