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Economic development is an important factor in ensuring peace and stability in Afghanistan, a meet to explore confidence building measures (CBMs) on commercial opportunities in the war-torn country felt today. The eighth meeting of the regional technical group of CBMs on trade, commerce & investment opportunities under the 'Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process' also shared the view that Afghanistan acted as a natural bridge in promoting regional connectivity and economic integration. "There was consensus that economic development was an important factor in ensuring peace and stability in Afghanistan and the Heart of Asia Region.
In this context, the participants shared views on various measures and steps to promote transit and trade and realising reliable and robust connectivity, with Afghanistan as the hub," a release by the external affairs ministry said. The meet recognised a need to make the existing transit and trade agreements more inclusive and comprehensive by expanding them both northwards and southwards to connect South Asia with Central Asia; strengthening growth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and involvement of women in economic development, including through women entrepreneurship; and simplifying customs procedures, it said. Hosted by India, the meeting was co-chaired by acting director general of economic cooperation department in Afghanistan foreign minister Hassan Soroosh, and joint secretary in the MEA Deepak Mittal. Attended by representatives of 17 participating countries and supporting international organisations, including Azerbaijan, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, UAE, Australia, Egypt, Germany, the UK, the US, the EU and the UN, the release said. "The steps taken for development of transit and transport through Chahbahar Port involving India, Afghanistan and Iran, TAPI gas pipeline, CASA-1000, TAT railway line, Lapis Lazuli corridor were assessed positively. All sides agreed on the value of such connectivity and economic integration projects to overall growth, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan," it added. The release said the recent establishment of the air freight corridor between India and Afghanistan was welcomed as providing fast and assured access to farmers of Afghanistan to the large markets in South Asia and beyond was acknowledged positively as also New Delhi's assistance for capacity building and training of Afghan officials. India's initiative to develop a web portal for exchanging information on regional markets, trade and investment opportunities, and facilitating networking between businesses for the participating countries was appreciated, the release added.
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