India to enter into preferential trade pact with Afghanistan

Thursday, 26 September 2002, 07:00 Hrs
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India has decided to enter into a preferential business agreement with Afghanistan with a view to boosting trade between the two countries, Indian Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal said Thursday.

KABUL: "We have already presented a draft on preferential trade agreement to the Afghan authority," Sibal told the inaugural session of a four-day Made in India show organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) here.

"An Indian delegation will shortly come to Afghanistan to finalise the trade agreement," he said.

Sibal said India and Afghanistan shared strong bilateral trade relations.

"There are proposals for further cooperation in the field of information and broadcasting, technology, road construction, power and infrastructure building."

The CII flew a high-powered team of CEOs to Kabul Thursday to explore business opportunities, as the global community gauges the colossal economic effort that would go into restoring a nation ravaged by war.

The visit coincides with the opening of the Made in India exhibition, the first peacetime business and trade fair in Afghanistan.

About 150 Indian companies including the Tatas, Hero Group, Godrej, Bajaj International, Escorts Ltd., TVS, Dabur, Kirloskar Electric, Usha International and Atlas Cycles are participating in the exhibition.

The companies represent a wide spectrum of industries, including agriculture, automobile and auto parts, construction, consultancy, consumer durables, education (training), health care and information and communication technology.

Sibal called upon the Indian private sector companies to explore business opportunities in Afghanistan.

"The (Made in India) exhibition not only shows India's industrial strength but also highlights the role of the private sector in reconstruction activities in Afghanistan," he said.

Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah said the country was striving to build a new environment for industrial activity in the war-ravaged nation.

"The new political climate in Afghanistan provides groundwork for development," Abdullah said. He said the country was looking forward to enter into bilateral trade agreements with all "friendly countries" in the region.

Afghan Commerce Minister Sayed Mustafa Kazmi said his government would soon unveil an "investor friendly" trade policy to boost foreign investment in the country.

"Afghanistan is formulating policies to attract major investment from foreign companies. We have to also develop new markets for our products," he said.

Vivek Katju, ambassador of India to Afghanistan, said India and Afghanistan would work towards strengthening their diplomatic and business ties.

"We are confident that the long period of conflict is over and a secure and economically strong future beckons Afghans," he said.

India has committed a $100 million line of credit to undertake various infrastructure and other projects in Afghanistan in addition to gifting one million tonnes of wheat and other humanitarian assistance.

During the last decade, bilateral trade between India and Afghanistan has been restricted to the supply of essential commodities from India in exchange primarily FOR dry fruits.

During 1989-90, the last year for which figures are available, India's exports to Afghanistan amounted to 914.8 million and comprised tea, wheat, tobacco, drugs and pharmaceuticals and engineering goods.

Indian imports from Afghanistan during 1989-90 were worth 237.3 million and comprised fruit, dry fruits and oil seeds.

New Delhi has assured Afghanistan of continued and enhanced cooperation in the fields of education, information and technology, public transport, by providing 50 buses and other vehicles, industry, energy and training of officials.

Source: IANS

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