President Hamid Karzai continued his push for India’s businesses to invest in Afghanistan during the second leg of his visit on Monday, saying their investment would boost economic development and help bring stability to the region.
”Investment opportunities are better today in Afghanistan, a country that is more confident of its future,” Karzai said at a news conference with India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi.
Karzai had said from the outset that one of the aims of his four-day trip, which started in Mumbai on Friday, is to shore up support from India businesses.
”Indian businessmen need not shy away. The Chinese came five to six years before you and they have already got two or three major contracts,” Karzai told Indian businessmen in Mumbai on Sunday.
”You should come in large numbers,” he added.
In an interview with the Indian Express on Sunday, Karzai explained his “preference” for India’s business.
“There is a fundamental difference between India and its business in Afghanistan and our business with the rest of the world. India has been for centuries our partner in business. Bombay itself is known to the older breed of Afghan businesses. They all have their businesses here, their offices here for centuries, so the tradition of business between us goes back to much longer than the concept of business,” he said, adding that there is also a cultural affinity between the two.
Karzai’s trip also covered matters relating to regional security and the strategic partnership agreement the pair signed during Karzai’s last visit to India in October 2011.
Singh said his talks with Karzai had covered bilateral relations and regional security.
”I reiterated to President Karzai our belief that Afghanistan’s regional economic integration will contribute to the overall prosperity and stability in the region,” Singh told reporters after the talks.
Karzai met with Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and Chairperson of India’s ruling United Progressive Alliance Sonia Gandhi during his time in New Delhi. On Sunday he met India’s junior Foreign Minister E. Ahmed and Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai.
The two countries signed four cooperation agreements on Monday in the areas of social welfare, fertiliser, coal mining and youth affairs.
The four agreements are memorandums of understanding (MoU), the first of which will see India provide grants to Afghanistan to implement small development projects through local bodies, community organisations, charitable trusts and educational institutions, signed by External Affair Minister Salman Khurshid and Afghanistan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul.
The second MoU relates to fertiliser sector and was signed by Khurshid and Afghanistan Minister of Mines Wahidullah Shahrani.
The third MoU aims at cooperation in youth affairs, signed by Aghanistan Minister of Information and Culture Sayed Makhdoom Raheenis and Khurshid.
The MoU on development of coal resources was signed by India’s Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal and Afghanistan Minister of Mines Wahidullah Shahrani.
India is one of the major donors in Afghanistan, having spent about US$2 billion on projects ranging from the construction of highways to the building of the Afghan parliament. It has also won an iron ore concession worth around an US$11 billion.