US official: India and US have "great convergence" on Afghanistan
"There was quite a good convergence of views on the situation going forward in Afghanistan,” Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake told foreign journalists of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's recent visit to India.
Blake said Clinton welcomed Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's recent visit to Afghanistan. She commended India for pledging $2 billion to help with Afghanistan's development, particularly its infrastructure.
“We discussed the increasing emphasis that the United States is placing on helping Afghanistan to stand on its own two feet economically,” he said, a strategy US officials have dubbed the New Silk Road strategy.
“We want to do that in basically three ways: first, by having the United States and other friends and partners invest more in infrastructure to help provide the building blocks to establish a more vigorous private sector inside Afghanistan; secondly, to support some of these very important regional projects that are under way now … things like the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan- India gas pipeline; and third, by encouraging more trade,” he said.
The Pakistanis and the Afghans have agreed to implement Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement, he said, adding that they have also agreed to try to extend it to Central Asia. “I think those are going to very, very positive steps,” he said.
“We hope that, with the progress that both India and Pakistan are making in their Commerce Secretary talks, that that will provide sufficient confidence and progress over time that both countries will be able to see the transit trade agreements extended to India as well,” Blake said.
“We talked a lot about this vision of allowing a truck from Kazakhstan to be able to go directly down through Central Asia, through Afghanistan and Pakistan, into India, into Bangladesh, perhaps beyond, which would be a real game changer for not only for Afghanistan and Pakistan, but for the entire region,” Blake said.
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