Steel Minister met Afghan President in Kabul
The Union Minister of Steel, Shri Beni Prasad Verma met the President of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Shri Hamid Karzai on 10th April, 2012. It is noteworthy that this was the first ever visit of an Indian Economic Minister to Afghanistan. They discussed various aspects of bilateral cooperation and mutual development between the two countries. Shri Karzai stressed on the need for better participation of Indian private and public sector companies in various mining projects in Afghanistan.
A Strategic Partnership Agreement was signed between the two countries in the presence of the Prime Minister of India during the visit of the President of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Shri Hamid Karzai to India in October 2011. This was a step towards reinforcing cooperation in various sectors with special focus on mineral exploration and mining.
The Union Minister of Steel, Shri Beni Prasad Verma also met the Vice President of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Shri Abdul Karim Khalili on the same day. During which the latter stressed on expediting implementation of projects.
Earlier on 9th, April, 2012, a meeting took place between the Minister of Steel and the Minister of Mines, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Shri Wahidullah Shahrani where they discussed the prospects of mineral exploration and mining as well as other related issues. An MoU on Co-operation in the Field of Steel Sector was also signed between Minister of Steel, Government of India and Minister of Mines, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. The MoU will not just act as a catalyst in the development of Afghanistan but will also be a high point in ensuring co-operation in the two countries. The initiative will also facilitate greater economic ties between the two countries.
Steel Minister hailed the MoU as a significant measure aimed at strengthening ties with Afghanistan and boosting socio - economic restructuring of the country. He also described the MoU as a measure of encouraging investments by public and private sector Indian companies in Afghan Iron and Steel and other allied sectors.
The Steel Minister explained how India’s interests in Central Asia have grown in the recent years. The Indian Minister also said that Afghanistan should see things from a long term perspective and give preference to Indian private and public sector companies in exploration of other minerals also.
Shri Verma discussed Afghanistan’s importance from the energy standpoint and its significance as a reservoir of huge mineral wealth. The Minister stated that the country’s great natural wealth could transform it into one of the most important mining centres in the world.
Shri Verma also expressed his satisfaction over the SAIL led consortium being selected as a preferred bidder for the Hajigak iron ore project and said that after execution of the contract, the consortium would move ahead with exploration & geological studies. The Minister also mentioned that SAIL led another consortium is also bidding for Copper and Gold reserves in Afghanistan.
The Minister of Mines of Afghanistan, Shri Shahrani welcomed the Indian delegation and briefed them about the mineral potential of Afghanistan and the reforms under way in the Ministry of Mines. Both sides shared a common view of working together for the development of iron ore mines and setting up of industry in Afghanistan. The Afghan Minister expressed his hope that options for joint exploration of Afghanistan’s huge reserves of rare earth metals and ores for metals like tungsten, tin, bauxite, lead, zinc could also be worked out by the two countries.
Also present on the occasion were Secretary Steel, Shri D.R.S. Chaudhary, Chairman, SAIL, Shri C.S. Verma; CMD, NMDC, Shri N.K. Nanda and other senior officers from India and Afghanistan.
Lately India has undertaken many projects in Afghanistan in the areas of hydro-electric power, power transmission, road construction, industry, telecommunications, information and broadcasting and capacity building which are contribution to changing the face of the country. Besides, the Government of India is already exploring the possibility of developing a new route from the port of Chah Bahar on the Gulf to Kandahar-Heart highway of Afghanistan leading to Central Asia which would boost trade in the region and guarantee benefits to all the stakeholders.