Afghanistan president Karzai has maintained close contact with India and has been working for alternative trade routes to increase bilateral business, as Pakistani attitudes can change as often as the weather
The Afghanistan government is at the cross-roads and the President Hamid
Karzai is at the moment, reluctant, to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement
(BSA) with the US/ NATO forces, because, for one thing: he feels that the same should be signed by the new president when elections are over in April this year. For another, he claims that he has not signed the agreement, because he is reported to have said: "let the US bring peace today and we will immediately sign it."
In fact, the main terms and conditions of the agreement were directly placed before the Loya Jirga (Council of Elders, which is an Afghan tradition) and approved by them. This, broadly, permits the continuation of 15,000 of these troops to be in about important locations, for a period of 10 years so that peace and progress can be slowly achieved, and democracy established.
In a recent interview to a newspaper, Dr Abdullah Ahdullah, former foreign minister in Karzai government, who at present is the front forerunner in the ensuing presidential election, stated to have mentioned that “it is in Pakistan's best interest to help stablilise the situation in Afghanistan.” There appears to be various parties that are instigating fear and panic in the minds of people, but yet, Afghan people have the national unity in the minds of the people. He felt that there are hopes and reconciliation process taking place and interested people are trying to bring Taliban into the election process, if not all, at least some of them.
He is reported to have reiterated that Pakistan cannot exercise a veto over Afghanistan's relationship with India; it is upto them how they establish their individual relations with India, Pakistan or any other country.
On the sidelines of the Business leaders conclave Mozammal Shinwari, deputy minister of commerce and Industry, Afghanistan, while attending the SAARC, (South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation) is reported to have said that trade relations with India are improving but the only hurdle is the transit through Pakistan. "They allow us to export through Wagah border but do not allow import from India in the same way.” Wagah border is only eight hours drive from the Afghan border, which currently export fresh fruits, dry fruits, medicinal herbs etc to India.
Thanks to a Consortium approach, a group of Indian steel mills have been given iron ore mining contract in the central part of Afghanistan in the Bamyan district, and, according to President Karzai, the Hajigak Iron Ore project may be worth about $11 billion. He pointed out that the Afghan government was being cautious in opening up the country's mineral resources for exploitation, lest it becomes a source of trouble like those that happened in Africa.
President Hamid Karzai's term is expiring in September, when the new president takes over. Though he would like to continue to hold the reigns, he cannot hold office beyond his current tenure.
President Karzai has had a long association with India, where he was partly educated; he is reportedly well versed in Urdu and Hindi and has a soft corner for this country; he has maintained close contact with Dr Manmohan Singh, and has been working for alternative trade routes to increase bilateral business, as Pakistani attitudes can change as often as the weather.
One of the other best alternatives selected happens to be for trade to be via Iran's southern port under development - with India's assistance - called Chah-bahar; from here goods can enter Zaranj on Afghan border from where India has built a road feeding into the garland highway connecting major Afghan cities/ towns.
In fact, both India and Afghanistan have applied for land from Iran at Chah-bahar to set up an Administrative and trade facilitation centre, so that, in the long run, it can assist India to develop trade with central Asian republics.
In a recent meeting with Dr Manmohan Singh, President Karzai thanked India for extending support in training their national army and supplying some of the equipments needed. He is reported to have said that "India is our historic friend even before the existence of Pakistan; we have signed a military partnership with India and their army will be training our army and India can play a major role because India is a super power in the region"
Of his relationship with the US, he is attributed to have said, in chaste Hindi:
"dua dete hain jeene ki; dava dete hain marne ki" - they pray for our well being, but give us medicines that kill us
"dua dete hain jeene ki; dava dete hain na hone ki" - they pray for our well being, but give us medicines that will never make us well again"
Once, Hamid Karzai was the blue-eyed boy of the US, when he was resident there; but in the years that have gone by, after he became the President of
Afghanistan, the attitudes have changed.
India wants a safe and secure election for the prosperity and progress of the
Afghan people; it must do all it can in assisting this country to develop its own natural resources and offer best educational and medical facilities. Trade must be encouraged via Chah-bahar with Iranian support, as both India and Afghanistan can not be at the mercy of Pakistani rulers.
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)
Moneylife Foundation, in a letter to RBI governor, has requested Dr Rajan to investigate frequent debt restructuring of Lanco group and role played by L Rajagopal, the suspended Congress MP from Vijaywada
Moneylife Foundation has sent a representation to Dr Raghuram Rajan, governor of Reserve Bank of India, requesting him to investigate about role played by L Rajagopal, the suspended member of Parliament (MP) from Vijaywada and frequent debt restructuring of his Lanco group.
"As savers, we want to question the growing cost of banking services to us, because people like Mr Rajagopal are recipients of reckless lending and frequent restructuring. Sir, this man, who called parliamentarians a 'mob' in an interview to Rajdeep Sardesai of CNN-IBN; who as an MP does not seem to understand the sanctity of the august house, has been considered fit to be extended fit to get a Rs9,000 crore reprieve from out nationalised banks. We believe that the RBI is ultimately accountable for such excesses by nationalised banks at the cost of the people of India," the representation reads.
The representation says, "Moneylife Foundation requests you to order an investigation into the corporate debt restructuring (CDR) and to make public all the documents pertaining to the CDR of Rs9,000 crore and the basis on which banks colluded to offer this reprieve to Mr Lagadapati Rajagopal. Why is the Securitization and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Securities Act, 2002 (SARFAESI Act) not invoked against Lanco?"
The Lanco CDR is not an isolated case. Earlier in March 2012, several eminent social activists including Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, EAS Sarma, Prashant Bhusan, Jayati Ghosh, and others urged the UPA government to change the management and liquidate personal assets of Kingfisher Airlines chairman Vijay Mallya, also Rajya Sabha MP, to save the carrier. (Don’t change aviation policy for Kingfisher Airlines, urge activists)
Coming back to Lanco, as reported last week by Moneylife, Lanco, which is in the debt restructuring process, has also been frequently involved in a number of controversies.
"(Lanco's) key businesses have been frequently involved in a number of controversies. In 2007, (its) managing director GV Babu was caught at an airport with a suitcase containing Rs34 lakh in unaccounted cash. Repeatedly tarnished by charges of corrupt practices and contract irregularities, Lanco Infratech Ltd ran into financial trouble and has filed for Corporate Debt restructuring (CDR) in July 2013," Wikipedia says.
Nomura had kept its rating and valuation (target price) on Lanco 'suspended' as it says the company is in the process of restructuring the debt on its standalone balance sheet, by way of reference to the CDR Cell.
"Group net debt-to-equity, including working capital loans of power SPVs and Griffin Coal acquisition debt, stood at12.7x as of December 2013 compared with 10.7x as of September 2013. Receivables from state discoms stood at Rs2,770 crore as of December 2013 compared with Rs2,940 crore as on September 2013, as impasse on tariff-related issues continued; the decline in receivables was largely on the back of recovery of Rs160 crore from Uttar Pradesh," Nomura said.
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