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Afghanistan beckons India's business leaders to invest

Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai (C) shakes hands with India's Trade Minister Anand Sharma (L) and Chairman of the Godrej Group Adi Godr
Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai (C) shakes hands with India's Trade Minister Anand Sharma (L) and Chairman of the Godrej Group Adi Godr

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Afghanistan is "ripe and ready" for Indian investments in mining and other sectors, President Hamid Karzai told business leaders in Mumbai on Saturday at the start of a trip to woo investors for his war-ravaged country.

"We'd like to welcome you with a red carpet, but you need to arrive at the red carpet," he told delegates at an Indian industry event in the financial capital.

"What I'd like to emphasize in particular is that Indian businesses need not be shy when thinking about Afghanistan. The Chinese businesses were there long before you came, five or six years before."

India has invested billions of dollars in Afghanistan since the Taliban regime's ouster in 2001 and has urged private firms to invest there, though many have misgivings about the security climate after 2014, when most foreign troops will leave. China is also looking to tap into Afghanistan's mineral reserves.

A consortium led by state-firm Steel Authority of India last year won the rights to develop a huge iron ore deposit in central Afghanistan and a nearby 6 million metric ton steel plant at a cost of around $11 billion.

China won a huge copper concession not far from Kabul, as well as oil blocks in the north.

However, both Asian giants have been held back in Afghanistan by security concerns as well as poor infrastructure in the landlocked, mountainous country.

India also has to tread carefully in Afghanistan because of the suspicions of arch-rival Pakistan, which sees New Delhi's expanding role in its neighbor as a move to encircle it.

Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma told the meeting with Karzai that New Delhi would look at engaging with Kabul to develop infrastructure such as highways, power projects, Chahbahar port and energy security.

(Reporting by Swati Pandey; Editing by Ron Popeski)

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