On June 28, Delhi hosted investment meeting on Afghanistan where more than 30 countries and 130 Indian companies and 70 international companies took part. The meeting is labeled the largest of its kind which focused generally on assessing the situation for investment in the country. It was organized by Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in close cooperation with Afghan and Indian governments.
The objective of the summit was to attract foreign investors in the light of new opportunities in the possibly new and stable Afghanistan. Though the meeting was merely on economic issues, the worrisome political issues were dominant in conference atmosphere.
Zolmai Rasool, Afghan foreign minister confessed that the investment atmosphere was in threat due to insurgent activities but said the Afghan government was committed to ensure the safety of foreign investors. Meanwhile, S.M. Krishna, the Indian foreign Minister, hoped that complete foreign military withdrawal in 2014 should not end to emergence of security and political vacuum instead should be replaced by foreign investors.
He added that the Indian government maintained that foreign investment and improvement of private sectors in Afghanistan could play critical role in this process and hoped it would be companies' owners who fill vacuum appear as result of foreign military withdrawal.
Before the commencement of the conference CII declared that the mineral resources of Afghanistan are worth three trillion dollars.
The level of participation of countries and profound numbers of Indian and international companies in the meeting showed the importance of natural reserves of Afghanistan. Though the political situation is completely uncertain, yet many companies have already signed contract with the government. However, efforts are made to foster political and economic development at the same time, but there is no doubt that without political stability and good governance, the notion of economic development would remain a far reachable dream.
There are two different problematic issues which undermine the prospective of foreign investment and economic development. The first thing is the current security situation. Years of wrangling with Taliban insurgencies have not yet proved fruitful. Taliban have remained a major threat to stability. Several times militants held successful attacks showing their capacity to deal severe blow to government at will. See for example, the recent attack on Spozhmai Hotel overlooking the Qarqha Lake in which more than 20 people were killed.
Moreover, the political landscape does not look promising and there is no decisiveness in war against militants. Years ago, the international community used not to differentiate between Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants. However, they were identified as different groups but came under an umbrella that should be eliminated. The struggle against al-Qaeda changed into a potential war against insurgency. But few years ago, the policy was reassessed and "anti-insurgency struggle" shifted into anti-terrorist struggle.
Indeed, several factors helped in such a change. The assassination of Osama in Laden, the al-Qaeda leader and exhaustive engagement against Taliban militants were largely effective to reassess the policy.
Meanwhile, the global economic slowdown is another factor that has affected the international community's commitment.
There are mounting pressures against government to withdraw from war and instead focus on economic development at home which have led to spiraling unemployment rate. Many countries have largely decreased their military budgets which has decreased their potentials to remain engage at any costly struggle.
In addition, the government approach towards militants has changed profoundly. Or perhaps, did not, but now Afghan officials feel free to voice out their lasting suppressed true sentiment and concept of Taliban militants. Taliban are not anymore an armed anti-government force that should be erased or forced to lay down arms but dissent brothers who should be welcomed and their demands should be met. As a policeman told me once that during training they are told continuously to avoid killing militants and try their best to arrest them alive because they are also from Afghanistan and your brothers.
Numbers of suicide bombers and militants who were arrested finally could make to escape from prison or released by government on the account not to rejoin militants. While later on, Afghan security forces detained those who were previously released from the prisons. While, on the other hand, Taliban militants are trained as whoever works or support foreign forces are guilty, and according to Sharia should be killed.
So, is not this struggle unequal? On one side, there are those who believe that killing their enemies is their religious obligation, while on the other side are those who maintain that their enemies are their brothers; should remain alive, no matter at what price! In another word, killing their enemies is a mistake and God would punish them in the hereafter.
This is the most dangerous notion that terribly affects Afghan security forces psychologically.
The second issue is mismanagement and widespread corruption. It is largely believed that no matter how giant natural resources may be, if the process of extraction and processing do not become transparent, the so-called natural wealth has least effect on common people's lives. Reports already revealed bribery of top Afghan officials by companies who have made investment. In such case, only few rulers will benefit the most and common people only sigh in pain.
The only hope is engagement of economically strong countries like China, Russia and India whose interests move exactly in parallel to political stability. Perhaps, they might pay endeavor to help the government bring stability and fight its armed opposition. For example, India has kept close relation with Afghanistan, intends to support a democratic civil government and ensures that Taliban or Taliban-like regimes would not capture power once again, because in such case, there is high possibility of growing threat to its security and strategic interests. Establishment of an Islamist government and sheltering as well as helping terror networks will certainly mount menace of homegrown terrorism.
Additionally, India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. To fuel the giant machine of industries, it is in need of rich energy resources and raw materials. Afghanistan as a country with huge mineral and natural resources is an attractive market for investment. Therefore, several India companies have already have won bid and watching out for restoration of peace and stability of larger investment in vital sectors.