‘The better it gets between India and Pak, the better Afghanistan’s chances’
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Visiting Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, who met business leaders in Mumbai and invited them to invest in his country, discusses his objectives and hopes with Sandeep Singh
What has prompted you to roll out the red carpet to Indian investors?
Indian businesses have been shy. The Chinese arrived in Afghanistan much ahead of India. Keeping in mind the traditions between India and Afghanistan for centuries, Indian businesses should have been the first to come. Now my purpose in visiting (Mumbai) was to encourage Indian businesses and to inform them of the pursuits in Afghanistan and to tell them that they should not be shy, that they should come, do all they can to benefit and to bring us also the profits of their business.
You used the word "shy", but is it not security concerns that are holding them back?
No business has been hampered or slowed down by lack of security. Businesses that came to Afghanistan from 2001 have not suffered but gained. So security-related incidents or the lack of security in parts of the country, because of terrorism and all that, is not affecting business. There will not be security (issues) affecting Indian businesses in Afghanistan. Even if there are instances of that — life is prone to incidents and accidents — Indian businesses should not shy away from it. Come to Afghanistan and profit...
With US troops set to be withdrawn in 2014, what kind of security system will be put in place in Afghanistan?
The country's institutions are being built up and they need time to settle down into an institutional framework. Numbers alone will not give you the strength, it is the training and the institutional framework and the very fact of it having been established for a long time that will deliver. Afghanistan's police and army in the past were almost completely destroyed in terms of being institutions; (rebuilding) has worked very well. The work on police began very late, in 2008-09, but still in terms of numbers we have sufficient and in terms of training we need many more years to get established. By 2014, we will be better than today but not be ideal. We will not be ideal even by 2024. It will take us a lot of time to have an established system and we must wait for that and work for that.