NEW DELHI: Efforts are being made to improve strategic ties and trade between Afghanistan and Assam, who will soon be signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

Afghan ambassador to India Shaida Mohammad Abdali divulged this while addressing the Assam-Afghan Business Session at the ongoing Assam International Trade and Industrial Fair (AITIF) at Jorhat in eastern Assam on Friday.

Abdali informed that the Afghan government is planning a tea research project with the Kaziranga University and this project can result in a wide collaboration over the tea trade between Assam and Afghanistan.

He also tried wooing the Indian investors who attended the session, expressing hope that the number of Indian companies in Afghanistan would increase from the present 100 as a strong foundation for future partnership is being laid through such business meets as the AITIF, adding “India has a special place in the hearts of the Afghan people”.

Further clarifying the perception that Afghanistan was still a war zone, Abdali said in the past 13-14 years, the country was trying to build itself economically and was on the lookout for joint ventures with Indian entrepreneurs and companies through clearly outlined MoUs.

"More than 42 countries have invested to build up Afghanistan and India is on top of the list," he said.

Asserting that now is the time to revive the earlier ties, the Afghan ambassador evoked memories of ancient ties, which hinged on trust and the silk route which passed through Afghanistan from the Mediterranean regions to China and India.. He also referred to the Kabuliwallahs of yore who not only trusted the people here and gave them loans but in turn were also trusted by the people.

"Now that Afghanistan has regained peace, India can utilise this trade route via Afghanistan and reach out to other countries in central Asia and vice-versa," he said.

Drawing similarity between Assam and his country, he said “There is one province in Afghanistan which is similar to Assam. What we lack is a food-processing industry like this state. We can sign an MoU with like minded farmers who would be interested in value addition to the foods they produced and jointly research and produce technology to reduce this waste”. “Another area is mineral wealth”, he added.

Meanwhile, the Economic Counsellor to the Afghanistan Embassy in India, Sayed Mujtaba Ahmadi, talked about how India and Afghanistan do not just share a conventional trade relationship between each other but also pointed out that Afghanistan is in fact India’s doorway for economic gains in Central Asia.

Ahmadi emphasised that the increased relations between the countries would act as a bridge between South Asia and Central Asia, while also speaking about a proposed power plant in Afghanistan.

On the other hand, from the Indian side, Swapnanil Baruah, the Commissioner of Industries and Commerce for the Assam state government and Ranjit Barthakur, Chairman of the North Eastern Advisory Council for the FICCI, talked about the greater potential of Assam in playing a role in Afghanistan’s rebuilding

While drawing a parallel between Assam and Afghanistan, Barthakur also informed that Amalgamated Plantations Private Ltd would mull export of tea to Afghanistan.