India will get more intimately involved in Afghanistan's stabilisation process by hosting a conference of regional investors.
Unlike the other conferences that take place around the world, examining the political, security and aid aspects of the post-2014 scenario, when the largely Western forces will have stopped their military operations, this conference will look at the investment opportunities in Afghanistan.
Announcing this at a press conference with Afghanistan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said Indian assistance to Afghanistan was neither “transitory, nor in transition.”
India, Pakistan and China will have a substantial economic stake in Afghanistan in the coming years. Kabul is poised to earn $500 million a year in transit fees from a pipeline originating from Turkmenistan and supplying gas to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
India has won the Hajigak iron ore mine, which officials say is the “jewel” of Afghanistan's mining sector. After winning three of four blocks on offer, it is looking at six petroleum blocks in northern Afghanistan and copper mines in four different parts of the country. China has won the lucrative Aenak copper mine, but faces the same problem as India and Pakistan: some regions are plagued by conflict and the others are placid.
Mr. Krishna and Mr. Rassoul were speaking to journalists after chairing the first meeting of the Indo-Afghan Partnership Council, which was envisaged in the strategic partnership agreement Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed seven months ago.
The Partnership Council, to be chaired by the Foreign Ministers, will have four working groups to flesh out the aims expressed in the strategic partnership agreement: capacity-building in the security, education and civil society sectors and scouting for opportunities in the hydrocarbon and mineral sectors. One of the working groups, on political and security consultations, also held its maiden meeting. The three other groups will meet in due course.
Mr. Krishna said India would continue to partner Afghanistan to make sure that it would be a source of regional stability and did not become a target for extremist forces. “Afghanistan's defence of its own territory is of extreme importance to us. Our security is entwined with the stability and security of Afghanistan.”
He also underlined the need to adhere to the ‘red lines' in the reintegration process. “These red lines for reintegration are crucial in the common endeavour to prevent Afghanistan from sliding back to [being] a safe haven for terrorists and extremist groups, and to preserve the gains made by the international community in [the] past decade.”
The two Ministers said India had been mentoring Afghan security forces, and both sides were in talks to refine the process. Low-key training had been taking place for quite some time, but it was mentioned up front in the strategic partnership agreement.