Afghanistan seeks Indian investment

Waslat Hasrat-Nazimi

Afghanistan and India have signed several pacts and memorandums of understanding to boost economic and strategic cooperation ahead of the withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan in 2014.

It’s almost as if Afghan President Hamid Karzai were visiting old friends. He studied in India as a young man and has made at least 12 trips in recent years alone.

This time, he is there to encourage Indian businesses to invest in his war-weary country. He said on Monday that India was a “frontline” partner in Afghanistan’s reconstruction.

“Investment opportunities in Afghanistan are better in a country that is more confident in its future and is willing to receive investment from its friends, particularly India,” Karzai told reporters on Monday.

He has received a warm welcome.

100 million dollars

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pledged to provide 100 million dollars for small socio-economic projects.

“President Karzai and I agreed to intensify our cooperation with a special focus on deepening our economic engagement in areas ranging from agriculture and small businesses to mining and infrastructure,” he said.

Four pacts to boost economic development were signed and agreements were made on mineral resources, small development projects, fertilizers and youth affairs.

India also said it would intensify its training of Afghan troops and police as part of a strategic partnership between the two countries that was announced last year.

Jochen Hippler from the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany told DW that both countries had Pakistan in mind. India does not want its nuclear-armed arch-rival to wield more influence in Afghanistan and does not want the country to again become a fertile breeding ground for extremism.

Sayed Masood, an economics lecturer at Kabul University, said India would have more political influence in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of international troops, but warned that it was a tricky situation.

“Although India and Afghanistan have a longstanding friendship, one has to be careful with India so that Afghanistan’s foreign policy does not suffer. Pakistan should also be encouraged to participate peacefully in Afghanistan,” he said.

An uneven pair

India was one of the few countries to support Afghanistan and keep diplomatic ties with Kabul during the Soviet occupation of the 1980s. There was an interruption of ties when the Taliban came to power, while India supported the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance.

Since the ousting of the Taliban, India has given vast amounts of aid to Afghanistan. However, Hippler does not think that the two countries have a very strong friendship and instead are merely defending their common interests.

“In terms of economics, size and democratic conditions, the two are a very uneven pair,” he said.

Hamid Karzai would like to suggest that the relationship is very strong. He said proudly on Indian television in Hindi that India was the “best country.”

According to a poll carried out by a German television station in 2009, his fellow countrymen would agree. Three quarters of Afghans had a favorable opinion of India whereas only 8 percent had a favorable opinion of Pakistan.

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