NEW DELHI — As the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan prepares for the pullout of combat troops by 2014, India cautiously positioned itself Thursday to expand its role in the country’s postwar stabilization by helping direct global business investment there.
Indian officials signaled the move — which came after months of prodding by the United States — by hosting an international conference here to discuss the possibility of investment in Afghanistan’s mines, infrastructure and agriculture. The country’s mineral and hydrocarbon wealth alone is estimated to be between $1 trillion and $3 trillion.
The conference comes just two weeks after the Taliban issued an unusual statement praising India for resisting the U.S. calls for it to play a larger role in Afghanistan, and New Delhi appeared to use the forum to define a unique niche for itself: By taking a lead in promoting investment in Afghanistan, it acknowledged Washington’s vision of achieving long-term stability in the war-torn country. But by restricting itself to the language of commerce, it avoided appearing intrusive — and also nodded to the aversion voiced by Pakistan and the Taliban to the idea of an Indian military presence there.