Foreign Affairs

Helping Afghans find their feet

Marc Grossman, the US special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, believes that an upcoming investors’ meet in India will be an important step in rebuilding Afghanistan by facilitating private investment into the war-torn country.

Speaking on the sidelines of the International Contact Group (ICG) on Afghanistan held in the Finnish capital of Helsinki on 17 June, Grossman told Tehelka, “The Indian government has offered to hold a meeting of companies from Asia, Europe and the US about exploring the possibilities of foreign direct investment in Afghanistan.”

The meeting will be held on 28 June in New Delhi, which has already committed $2 billion in development and reconstruction in Afghanistan. Since 2001, $90 billion has been pledged by the international community, out of which $57 billion has already been disbursed.

“Going forward in Afghanistan, what is going to be important? The private sector,” says Grossman, adding that the next ministerial meeting in Tokyo will focus on the economy. Linking up economic development with security, Japan’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Tadamichi Yamamoto says economic development will only complement the commitment made by the international community in the areas of security. “We had a very successful meeting in Chicago in the field of security. So, in Tokyo, we would like to come out with a clear message of support in cooperation in the economic and special development of Afghanistan,” he says.

The European Union holds the same view. Speaking to Tehelka, Vygaudas Usackas, EU Special Representative to Afghanistan, says the foundation of sustainable economic development in the country is one of the major challenges. “Afghanistan has to move gradually from recipient of aid to trade partner and I commend India’s initiative,” he says.

In his opening remarks at the ICG meet in Finlandia Hall, Afghan Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal also spoke about his country’s economic potential, especially in the mining sector. “We are not a poor country, but a country with resources,” he said. In 2010-11, the country’s economy grew by 8.2 percent, one of the fastest rates in the world.

Meanwhile, putting the ball in India’s court on the possibility of military involvement in Afghanistan, Grossman acknowledged that it is an important question but the “Indian government can speak for itself”.

However, he commended India’s role in training the Afghan forces, especially the women police. After the withdrawal of US-led NATO forces in 2014, the role of the Afghan army and police will become important in fighting the Taliban insurgency. Grossman points towards the announcement of the trilateral parleys between India, US and Afghanistan made earlier last week, which would see a greater involvement of India in that country.

The other area of involvement for India, according to Grossman, should be in creating a regional context for a stable and secure Afghanistan. “India has been very involved in earlier conferences in Istanbul, Kabul, Chicago and Bonn. Now in Tokyo, it is very involved,” he says.

On the ongoing negotiations between the US and Pakistan on reopening NATO supply routes through Pakistan, he said, “We are working hard on this and Pakistan is also doing the same. And I hope that some agreement on this will come soon because these lines of communication are important to Afghanistan and to the US and I would also argue that they are important to our friends in Pakistan.”

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