After the strategic agreement with Afghanistan, India has taken another step to strengthen the relations with Afghanistan. This step is the Delhi Investment Summit on Afghanistan. The Summit was held on Thursday, June 28, with the intention, as the name suggests, to create investment opportunities in Afghanistan after the international troops withdraw completely from the country so that the terrorism should not once again fill the vacuum that will be created as a result of withdrawal. The focused areas included mining, hydrocarbons and infrastructure, and in traditional sectors like agriculture, industry, capacity-building, health and services.
The concerns about the post-withdrawal scenario are really very much real and may prove to be fatal if not handled properly. Afghan authorities will be highly tested while guaranteeing security in the country and making the political, social and economic activities improve properly. They are being questioned about their capacity and their determination to shoulder the responsibilities on their own and then there is an indication that the war against terrorism is being left without major issues being solved.
Economic sector will definitely play a very dominant role not only in generating enough funds for the country to stand on its own regarding security, but also providing basic necessities to the people, which may, to a certain level, make the people feel contented and not turn to social evils and terrorism.
It is a crystal clear fact that withdrawal of international troops will reduce the amount of the aid and assistance that the country is receiving at the moment. US and NATO have not yet determined how the Afghan security forces will be funded for almost a decade after the withdrawal. Moreover, the international community involved in Afghanistan would try to extract itself out of Afghanistan as soon as possible. The involved countries are facing opposition from their own public and at the same time they do not seem confident of the performance of Afghan government and the outcome of the efforts made so far in the war against terrorism. In addition, the international economic crisis has left some very ugly experiences on their economies; therefore, they would prefer to spend for their own people and their internal issues.
From Afghanistan's point of view, it is very much necessary that the relations with the neighbors should be established on strong terms and the foreign policies should be pursued in accordance to the national interests so that strong ties should be developed in the post-withdrawal scenario. The country at the moment is going through very critical circumstances.
The terrorist activities are getting very much serious, even the securest of the areas and the most important of the personalities are being targeted; political and economic setups are struggling to stand on their own. The political reconciliation with Taliban has failed, while the capabilities of Afghan forces and the intentions of the Afghan government are being criticized by national and international analysts. In such crucial circumstances it is necessary that the regional countries that are having a comparative stability must support the country. They must realize the basic fact that the circumstances in Afghanistan have their impacts on them; therefore, they must do as much as possible.
Definitely, after the international troops withdraw, it is only the regional support that can help Afghanistan in guaranteeing its stability and development. But that is an ideal situation; the important thing is how the regional countries respond to the upcoming political changes and above all how Afghanistan itself will respond to those changes.
Currently the efforts that are being made by the regional countries are encouraging and must be intensified. The Delhi Investment Summit mentioned above strived on its own to persuade the investors to invest in Afghanistan so that it should be able to establish a reliable infra-structure. The Summit included businesses from 33 countries – Iran, China, Pakistan, US, Europe and Japan. Moreover, about 130 Indian and more than 100 Afghan companies participated in it.
SM Krishna, Indian external affairs minister, while talking about the objective of the Summit said, "The military draw-down should not result in a political or security vacuum that will be filled by extremists once again. There should be something productive in its place… We feel that foreign investment and domestic private sector development can play that role.
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. They can also play a larger stabilizing role… Investments can provide that hope for employment, training and opportunity for the future. We encourage our industries to venture into Afghanistan in numbers together with Afghan partners."
However, it is important to note whether the peace and tranquility follow investment or investment follows peace and stability. There are many investors and international companies that do not wish to invest in Afghanistan because of the looming insecurity; while another basic factor for the extensive investment is the presence of the basic infra-structure. Therefore, the Afghan authorities have to make sure that they are able to minimize the security threats in the country as much as possible and galvanize both the national and international investors to Afghan markets, while the regional countries should also support Afghanistan in this mission.
US, to support the initiative taken by India, has hailed the Delhi Investment Summit. Victoria Nuland, the US department spokesperson has said, "We have more than a dozen American companies participating in the conference to explore investment opportunities, including big companies like DuPont, PricewaterhouseCoopers, General Electric, and ExxonMobil… So we think this is an excellent initiative to strengthen private sector investment, to strengthen regional links and shows great leadership on the Indian Government's part." It is really important for the US to make sure that Afghanistan is supported properly even after its troops, along with the other international troops, withdraw from Afghanistan.
Afghanistan in the last few months have been able to sign various strategic and cooperation agreements with the Western and regional countries; however, it is really important to see that for all these agreements and commitments to be successful, there have to be peaceful and tranquil socio-political circumstances and there have to be practical measures taken by Afghan and international authorities to ensure such circumstances.
Dilawar Sherzai is the permanent writer of the Daily outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Daily Outlook, 30 June 2012