Afghanistan is now looking forward to see Russian business in the country. This was stated by Mahmoud Karzai, a prominent businessman in Afghanistan, the brother of Afghan President, in an interview with the editor-in-chief of Afghanistan.Ru news portal, Omar Nessar early April when the businessman paid a private visit to Moscow.
In fact, the status of the private visit was not an obstacle for Mahmoud Karzai to hold several important meetings, including talks with Russian politicians in Moscow. The Afghan President’s brother met with the leaders of Russia’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry and held talks with the executives of several leading construction companies and oil companies. Moreover, he had a meeting at the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Mahmoud Karzai gave an exclusive interview to “Afghanistan.Ru” portal several hours before leaving for Kabul from Moscow.
Mr. Karzai, what did you see in Moscow and what is your impression about the Russian capital?
I flew to Moscow in the night and I could see from the plane not only a beautiful city but also part of a highly developed country. After landing, I met with several Russians and I realized these people are not only kind but also are well-educated. Russia is one of the richest countries in the world. The country is rich in its natural resources and has developed science, technology and culture. Unfortunately, Russia is now only linked to oil and gas. We remember the Soviet Union in a different way.
How do you estimate the level of contemporary Russian-Afghan economic cooperation?
Russia’s presence in Afghanistan is negligibly small compared to other countries when taking into account the traditional relations between the two. I believe that the involvement of Russian business in our country will be advantageous not only to Afghans but also to Russian companies.
According to my opinion, it’s good that Russia and the other members of the international community have a common position towards Afghanistan. This paves the way for promoting mutually beneficial economic cooperation. Afghanistan supports this and the country’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry and other organizations are ready to promote Russian investment. I would like to single out two sectors of the Afghan economy that will be attractive to Russian companies for making investment. They are house construction and development of natural resources.
Some Russian experts say that the American presence in Afghanistan is an obstacle for promoting Russian-Afghan cooperation. According to your opinion, what is the impact of “American factor” on relations between Moscow and Kabul?
I know that Russia has an impression that Americans allegedly oppose the presence of Russian business to Afghanistan. However, the Russian authorities understand that this is wrong. The U.S. sets up no obstacles to the economic presence of China and India in Afghanistan and supports the arrival of Russian business to our country.
However, I must say that when a foreign company wins contracts in Afghanistan that are financed by the international community, the majority of these will have to undergo an unpleasant procedure. All companies follow this procedure. This is linked with the preparation of a package of documents on rules of doing business adopted in the West. I must say that special skills are needed to take part in tenders in Afghanistan. Not all Russian companies know how to do this. However, this problem can be solved. In fact, some foreign companies that have experience in this area hire specially trained officials and successfully solve organizational and legal issues of doing business in Afghanistan.
Moscow had many friends in Afghanistan during the Soviet times, but there are very few now. Some say that at present, it’s quite a difficult to find a person who speaks in Russian in Afghanistan. It’s impossible to establish confidential relations, especially in business without such people in Kabul…
I believe that Russia has a great potential for promoting economic cooperation with Afghanistan. At present, you can find several persons who are fluent in English in almost every Afghan company or government department. This is very important for establishing relations. Almost all residents in Pol-e Khumri speak in Russian. Hundreds of specialists with the knowledge of Russian language graduate from Kabul Polytechnic University (built during the Soviet times, note by “Afghanistan.Ru”) every year. There is no any discrimination against the graduates from the Soviet Union or Russia in Afghanistan. One can easily find Russian speakers, including the supporters of the former Communist regimes in the government and the parliament.
Most likely, the greatest obstacle to the appearance of Russian businessmen in Afghanistan is the terrorist activity of the Taliban and the al-Qaeda militants and also the drug traffickers. How can you characterize the security situation in Afghanistan?
Guaranteeing security is the key issue before Afghanistan today, which is quite urgent for promoting business in the country. Unfortunately, illegal drug trafficking is directly linked with terrorism. In view of this, there is a need to emphasize first and foremost the situation in the Helmand province (according to international organizations, over 60% of all narcotics in Afghanistan produces in this province. note by “Afghanistan.Ru”). Militants operating in the province encourage growing poppy. This is the reason why Taliban is supported by local population. Growing poppy for making heroin is the only way for them to survive.
The liberation of each province from militants and putting it under the control of the authorities will lead to a gradual fall in the production of poppy. This is the reason that compels the people in the heroin producing regions, who depend on the production of poppy, to support Taliban. Despite this the destruction of drug producing infrastructure will be inevitable.