Global meet to boost investment in Afghanistan

India invites Iran, 35 countries to take part in Delhi summit

Despite apprehensions of the United States, India is likely to underline the role of Iran in reconstruction of Afghanistan during the international investment meet it is hosting in New Delhi next week to mobilise flow of private capital to the conflict-ravaged country.

India has invited Iran in addition to China, Russia, Pakistan and more than 35 other countries to take part in the Delhi Summit on Investment in Afghanistan, which is scheduled to be held next Thursday.

Though the US welcomed India’s initiative to boost investment in Afghanistan, it is cautious about the prospect of Iran playing a greater role in economic development of the country after the withdrawal of the bulk of the international security assistance force by 2014.

India, however, is likely to argue that Iran could not be left out of the process of reconstruction in Afghanistan. Sources said India would underline the fact that Iran was not only the second largest exporter to Afghanistan after Pakistan, but had also been the fourth largest investor in the landlocked country in 2009.

India is understood to have pointed out to the US that Tehran could foment trouble, if left out of the process for long-term economic development of Afghanistan. 

Besides, New Delhi also conveyed it to Washington that it would be difficult to bring the new Silk Road — the US-backed grand idea of turning Afghanistan into a transit route for connectivity between South and Central Asia — to reality without active support from Iran.

India is also keen to see Iran playing a greater role in Afghanistan, as that would counterbalance Pakistan’s influence, which is likely to grow after the US-led ISAF’s withdrawal from the war-torn country.

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna is expected to articulate India’s views on the path ahead for development of Afghanistan. Several ministers of Afghanistan are likely to attend the meet in New Delhi next Thursday and make presentations to woo investors.

Participants

Representatives of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, Asian Development Bank and over 15 financial institutions are also expected to take part in the event.New Delhi is understood to have offered to host the investment meet as it is keen to take the lead in changing the pattern of international assistance to Afghanistan — going beyond grants and donations from the governments around the world to mobilise private capital flow to help the country harness its natural resources and chart its own path to prosperity.

India’s pledged assistance to rebuilding Afghanistan surpassed $2 billion when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced a new package worth $500 million during his visit to Kabul in May 2011. Opinion polls put India much ahead of Pakistan in terms of popularity to Afghans.

New Delhi has repeatedly put it on record that it has a huge stake in the security and stability of Afghanistan and will continue to support the country, notwithstanding Islamabad’s campaign against India’s growing influence in its neighbourhood.

India also has a growing economic stake in Afghanistan. A consortium led by Steel Authority of India has won the rights to explore and mine iron ore in three blocks in Hajigak in Afghanistan.

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