The external affairs ministry on Friday told the Lok Sabha that there is no proposal for a bilateral trade agreement with Afghanistan. The response was to a query raised by Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) MP Thirumaavalavan Thol.
The parliamentarian who represents Tamil Nadu’s Chidambaram wanted to know if India is planning to explore Afghanistan’s vast lithium reserves.
The government said that it is closely monitoring the developments in Afghanistan. “The Government continues to closely monitor the developments in Afghanistan, including the evolving security situation and takes all necessary measures to safeguard our national interest,” Union minister of state for external affairs V Muraleedharan said.
Afghanistan has vast reserves of lithium and some experts say that Afghanistan could be sitting on one of the largest reserves of lithium. The lithium triangle of South America which consists of countries Bolivia, Chile and Argentina (in that order) are the largest producers of lithium.
Lithium is in demand since it is a key component of batteries and other electronics. The lithium-ion batteries used in electric-vehicle manufacturing have also forced companies in this sector to look at what possibilities are present in Afghanistan.
A major roadblock for law-abiding and democratic nations is the Taliban regime with whom companies are reluctant to negotiate.
Chinese firms, however, continue to ignore the political instability in Afghanistan, as they have done in many such volatile jurisdictions, like Congo, and last November sent five representatives from different companies to hold discussions regarding exploring those reserves.
The Taliban-led government also pushed China to explore avenues of investment. The Taliban-led government in Afghanistan is facing a crisis as people faces unemployment, lawlessness and food insecurity. People live in constant fear of the Taliban and women are barred from attending schools or working in offices.
China pledged to the Taliban that they will help them rebuild Afghanistan even though the Taliban leaders continue to break the promises they made to the international community with regard to women’s education and universal human rights.
China is eyeing those projects because of the boost it shall provide to Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road initiative.
The issue of China and Pakistan inviting third countries to participate in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was also raised.
“Any such actions by any party directly infringe on India”s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Such activities are inherently illegal, illegitimate and unacceptable, and will be treated accordingly by India,” Muraleedharan replied.
(with inputs from Shalinder Wangu)