Indian business see opportunities in Afghanistan: Khurshid

Indian business see scope in Afghanistan
New Delhi, Nov 18: The External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid on Monday cited the 1961 Hindi film "Kabuliwala" to stress on the close links and trade ties between India and Afghanistan and said India has an "open arms approach" to Afghanistan.

Addressing a conference "Doing Business with Afghanistan" at the FICCI house here, Khurshid also said Indian business saw big opportunities in Afghanistan's stability. Referring to the Balraj Sahni starrer, he said the film had helped spur commerce between the two countries.

"We have an open arms approach to Afghanistan, our destinies are interlinked," said Khurshid at the conference that was jointly organised by FICCI, the external affairs ministry and the Afghanistan foreign affairs ministry.

He said India, which has $2 billion worth development projects in Afghanistan, has no exit policy with regard to Afghanistan and would stay as long as it was needed.

"Indian business sees enormous opportunity in Afghanistan's stability" and looked forward to the future gains of Afghanistan becoming the major stepping stone to connect to Central Asia and beyond into Europe, he said.

Referring to the Chabahar port in Iran, which India is upgrading, Khurshid said it would help in evacuation of minerals mined in Afghanistan .

Afghanistan Finance Minister Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal dismissed "doomsday predictions" about Afghanistan's future post the 2014 drawdown by international forces as "totally flawed".

"Afghanistan in 2014 and beyond will be more stable, unified and prosperous," said Zakhilwal, adding: "You can't compare Afghanistan of today with that of 10 years ago."

He said that the people of Afghanistan would "absolutely not allow" the situation to revert back to what it was 10 years ago when it was under occupation.

His said his country was full of young aspiring people, with many of them educated in India, and eager to move forward.

Zakhilwal said his country was more integrated today and the mobile phone had reached right down to the interiors. Of the 30 million population, 18.5 million had access to mobile phones, while Afghanistan today had 30 national television channels from just one a decade ago.

The minister said unity and inclusivity would be the factors in the stability of Afghanistan.

Zakhilwal said the Afghan security forces, which have taken over, are able to not only maintain security but also "improve upon it".

"This has primarily been possible because of the support of the people," he said, adding that this year 300 suicide bombers had been sent to Afghanistan to hurt the country.


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