TNN reported that shortly after it signed a strategic partnership pact with Afghanistan, India's engagement with Kabul is all set to blossom further with two Indian companies, one of them a government backed consortium led by SAIL, likely to win the contract for iron ore mining at Hajigak in Bamiyan province.
According to US government estimates, in a country where there are untapped mineral resources worth USD 1 trillion, the Hajigak iron ore mining entails the single largest foreign investment by any country for such a project in the war torn country.
SAIL and NMDC are heading a consortium of seven companies which has bid for the contract as a part of the Dr Manmohan Singh led government's initiative to further enhance India's role in Afghanistan, a country in which India has pledged investment worth USD 2 billion. Another Indian company which has bid separately is corporate Ispat Alloys.
According to Afghanistan's minister of mines Mr Wahidullah Shahrani, the two Indian entities have emerged as the most potential companies for Hajigak. The final decision is likely to be taken by Afghan authorities in early November. Other companies from Canada, US and Iran too are in the fray.
Foreign secretary Mr Ranjan Mathai had met Mr Shahrani during his visit to Afghanistan last month during which he is said to have pushed the case for Indian firms.
If the SAIL led consortium does indeed win the contract, the deal will surpass the USD 4 billion contract signed by China for copper mining in the Logar province four years ago. In fact, the contract can help India dispel the notion that it is reduced to playing catch up with China which has won most of the major mining contracts in Afghanistan.
The SAIL led consortium has bid for all four Hajigak mining blocks. Government authorities have backed the bid maintaining that it makes strategic as well commercial sense to have a presence in mining in Afghanistan.