Passage to Prosperity: Indo-Afghan trade show in Delhi can be a game-changer

afghan-india-abdullahProjecting Afghanistan as a narrative of economic opportunity, a signature India-Afghan trade show has been organized in New Delhi that seeks to nurture and expand economic bonds between Asia’s third largest economy and the resource-rich violence-wracked country.
Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will jointly inaugurate the three-day India-Afghanistan Trade and Investment show at a luxury hotel in New Delhi on September 27. The show, fittingly entitled “Passage to Prosperity,” could be a potential game-changer in attracting greater Indian investment into a violence-torn country wracked by a festering insurgency led by the Taliban.
The trade fair showcases typical Afghan products like carpets, gems, dry fruits and marble, for which the country is famous for, and seeks to forge business linkages between Afghan traders and entrepreneurs with their Indian counterparts. Over 200 Afghan and 800 Indian companies, encompassing diverse sectors, including health, education, energy, water and agriculture sectors, are participating in the mega show.
The trade fair emanates from India’s declared commitment to bolster Afghanistan economically at the Heart of Asia Ministerial conference, held in Amritsar in December 2016.

US-India-Afghan trilateral
In a first of sorts, the US is partnering in this trade show, which underlines a growing connect between India, Afghanistan and the US to proactively cooperate in the economic rejuvenation of the violence-beset country. The trade initiative will reinforce US President Donald Trump’s Afghan policy which envisages a bigger economic and developmental role for India in the stabilisation of Afghanistan. In his interaction with US Defence Secretary James Mattis, India’s Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has reaffirmed India’s commitment in the development projects in Afghanistan even as she categorically ruled deployment of Indian troops.
“At the meeting, discussions will be held on the implementation of Indian projects in various provinces across Afghanistan, it is better that the challenges and their solutions are also identified so that discussions are held on them at the appropriate time,” Mr. Abdullah said.

What’s on the way?
The trade fair is expected to provide a strong impetus to the private sector in Afghanistan, particularly the social entrepreneurs. Discussions will include the expansion of cooperation in the carpet industry, the establishment of a joint chamber of commerce and industry and Indian investment in the pharmaceutical sector in Afghanistan. The focus will be on improving the conditions for Afghan products to reach Indian markets and the setting of a permanent centre in India for showcasing Afghan products.
The success of the India-Afghanistan air corridor has set the stage for acceleration of economic ties between the two countries. “India-Afghanistan trade and investment show on September 27 and 28 in New Delhi demonstrates the strong US-India commitment to Afghanistan’s future, at the event government and private sector entities will join to announce  and create opportunities for cross border business, a win-win  for all our countries,” said US ambassador to Afghanistan Hugo Llorens.
Earlier this month, after an India-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Council meeting, India had agreed to provide assistance in the training of Afghan police officers, besides offering to take up 116 high-impact community development projects in 31 Afghan provinces. So far, India has pledged $3 billion in assistance to the strife-torn country and has been actively engaged in a wide array of developmental and capacity building programmes. But the trade between the two countries continues to languish at $684 million (2014 -2015), primarily because of security concerns. But with Mr Trump’s conditions-based approach and a more proactive role by the US in bolstering Afghanistan’s security, the situation could improve and help transform the country into a hub of regional trade and prosperity.

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