In a bid to transform Afghanistan from a war-ravaged nation to an economically prosperous one,its government is sparing no efforts to woo Indian investors. Afghan Mines Minister Wahidullah Shahrani who was in New Delhi last week spells out his expectations from India and his governments blueprint to facilitate investments from the country to Priyadarshi Siddhanta. Excerpts:
Can you elaborate on Afghanistans mineral resources? How much foreign investment are you eyeing in the mining sector?
Afghanistan has a huge mineral resource base. According to global estimates,we are sitting over $ 2.5 trillion of untapped resources. We have huge copper mines at Balkhab and Aynak areas. Besides,we have substantial reserves of rich quality iron ore at Hajigak in the Bamiyan district and also virgin coal reserves. We are sure that by developing these mines,we will be able to generate much-needed employment for our people and also mobilise additional resources.
How much investment are you expecting from India in your mineral sector? What has been the quantum of fund flow from India for executing various development projects?
The Government of India has been the biggest donor for projects to give Afghanistan a facelift. It has already invested about Rs 10,000 crore (nearly $ 2 billion) in various projects. These projects encompass power,roads and water supply. In my current trip,I have met representatives from state-run and private firms urging them to explore opportunities in Afghanistan. We have been getting government-to-government investment,but we want Indian companies to invest there in roads and highways,power,agriculture and irrigation,in a big way. In this visit,I have met the Indian ministers for commerce and petroleum among others. We have also decided to ink memorandum of understanding for promoting investment in Afghanistan.
The Afghan government has awarded the bid for developing the Hajigak iron ore mines to a consortium of Indian companies led by SAIL. But funding remains a main concern. Would you expect the Indian government to give financial support to Hajigak project?
When they submitted their bid,they had clearly indicated their financial and technical strengths in executing the project. Our experts too endorsed their adequate financial wherewithal. In their bids,they have assured that they would explore the mine,set up evacuation infrastructure including a railroad network and also a seven million tonne steel plant. They can muster resources from any financial institution including multi-lateral funding agencies. The Indian government has many windows for funding such projects. If it extends support to Hajigak project,then it will be highly appreciated.
But how would the consortium raise resources as Afghanistan is in the negative list of international financial institutions?
If this is so then how are other projects being funded by such agencies in Afghanistan? We expect to conclude talks with the AFISCO by March and we expect them to mobilise resources by June. They would invest more than Rs 40,000 crore in Afghanistan for these assorted projects. When the project reaches full capacity,about 74,000 Afghans would be employed.
Given the security situation in Afghanistan,the Indian consortium has genuine concerns. What blueprint do you have to ensure security for such a mega project? Besides,certain sections have have raised issues on bidding out the project calling for more transparency.
We will ensure security. We will deploy our mine protection force in and around the operational area. Needless to say,all security arrangements will be in place. We need to remember that Bamiyan has been relatively a very peaceful area,so that is why we have bid out the iron ore block and a coal block to AFISCO. We are taking adequate care for our mineral resources and are transparent in our processes.