India has called for greater private investments in Afghanistan, which will help replace military fatigues now dominating the country with grey suits of company executives.
“Let the grey suits of company executives take the place of olive green or desert brown fatigues of soldiers and CEOs, the place of Generals…there should be something productive in its place, said External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna while inaugurating the first ever regional conference on Afghanistan, jointly organised by the Ministry of External Affairs and the Confederation of Indian Industry, here on Thursday.
The tone for an upbeat narrative on economic opportunities in Afghanistan was set the previous night by India’s Permanent Representative in the United Nations Hardeep Puri during a discussion in the Security Council. “We see the Delhi Investment Summit as a critical link between the Istanbul Process and the Tokyo Conference on July 8. The summit will also be helpful in countering the current narrative of anxiety of withdrawal and in reversing it with a narrative of opportunity and hope,’’ he had observed.
Mr. Krishna and Mr. Puri were wary of the security situation and felt the security gains achieved during the last decade in Afghanistan were still tenuous and fragile. From the Afghan side, Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul dwelt on the security considerations and Commerce and Industry Minister Anwar-ul-Haq Ahady on the advantages and downside of doing business.
These senior political figures from Kabul were frank with their appraisal of the current situation, confessing that they had to make efforts to improve the security situation as well as ease of doing business.
“Despite high level of return on investments and our efforts and measures to create enabling environment for investment, one of the major factors, which has significant impact on the level of investor interest in Afghanistan, is concern over security. While it’s true that there are certain areas in Afghanistan where security situation is no ideal, we should remember that these areas represent a small part of the country,’’ said Mr. Rassoul.
Mr. Ahady acknowledged Afghanistan’s low ranking in the World Bank’s Doing Business Indicators (DBI) and complaints about business climate getting affected by administrative obstacles.