Afghan Prez Ghani woos Indian investors with ‘palace stay’ offer
Rolling out the red carpet for Indian investors, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani on Wednesday offered them incentives like personal meetings and palace stays, while giving an assurance that nobody was going to ‘shake them down’ in the war-ravaged country.
“We want to assure you that if you invest in Afghanistan, nobody is going to shake you down. Come to us. Anyone who is investing more than $50 million will be able to have a private discussion with me. Anyone who is willing to put $200 million will get to stay at our ancient palace,” he said. “We see the Indian private sector as a key partner in transforming Afghanistan from an area shadowed by conflict to a hub where goods, ideas, people flow in all directions,” Ghani told business leaders here on the last day of his three-day visit.
India is one of the top investors in Afghanistan and has expressed interest in joining the proposed APTT (Afghanistan-Pakistan Trade and Transit Pact). Besides, India has already contributed over $two billion worth assistance in several social and infrastructure projects in rebuilding of the strife-torn country. Interacting with the industry representatives here, Ghani invited the Indian industry to invest in production of fertilisers and chemicals by tapping the natural gas from Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. Ghani said immense potential exists particularly in areas related to infrastructure like railways, apart from fibre optics, power generation, mining and skill development.
“Our first priority with you is to arrive at a cluster approach for development of infrastructure,” the President said, adding that “Afghanistan has the potential to generate at least 26,000 MW of electricity from hydro power”. Taking cues from ‘Make in India’ campaign, Ghani asked Indian companies to make in Afghanistan and export products from there. Pointing out that skill development “does not exist” in Afghanistan, Ghani said the country would like a major partnership based on India’s experience on skill development”.
The Afghan President endorsed the concept of a joint task force, so that private sector from both countries can work together to enhance trade and investments. Pointing out that corruption had been a main obstacle to investments by the private sector, Ghani said he personally chairs the National Procurement Committee in Afghanistan now. Promising to remove all obstacles to investments, Ghani said, “On the visa regime I have instructed our embassy to facilitate. Multiple visas will be at the disposal of any businessperson that wants to invest in Afghanistan”.
‘TAPI gas pipeline constructionto be complete in five years’
The construction of the $10-billion TAPI gas pipeline project will be completed in the next five years, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani said on Wednesday. Ghani also invited the Indian industry to invest in production of fertilisers and chemicals by tapping the natural gas from Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. The ambitious Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline was expected to be operational in 2018.
“We have a framework for transmitting with the pipelines from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan to Pakistan to India. But I invite you to another alternative. TAPI will take five years. I invite the Indian industry to join us in production of fertilisers and chemical industry based on supply of gas from Turkmenistan and Afghanistan’s natural gas,” Ghani said at a business event here. TAPI project has remained on drawing board since the four nations have not been able to get an international firm to head a consortium, which will lay and operate the pipeline. Ghani said: “The global fertiliser industry is facing a huge problem of short supply chains... Turkmenistan’s gas is available. If we don’t tap it, we are likely to lose it to other opportunities. “I am proposing a shortcut to you... Prime Minister Narendra Modi is interested in this approach. We need you to come together to turn Afghanistan into a centre of both fertiliser and chemicals. The power in this conception would be a byproduct rather than a primary product,” he added.