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    India's role in boosting Afghan economy hailed

    WASHINGTON (PAN): As US troops prepare to return from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, the Obama Administration’s point man for South Asia on Tuesday told lawmakers India had a crucial role to play in the revival of the country’s economy.

    “We appreciate very much the significant role that India is playing in Afghanistan. In fact, we see India as kind of the economic linchpin for future,” Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake acknowledged.

    During a congressional hearing of the Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the official said: “As our troops draw down, as their spending draws down, it's going to be much more important now to establish a private-sector basis for the Afghan economy and to make a trade-based economy and not an aid-based economy.”

    Blake, who was in New Delhi for last week’s trilateral dialogue with India and Afghanistan, said that India had made a large investment in Afghanistan’s Hajigak iron-ore deposit. It also hosted a major conference last year to promote foreign investment in Afghanistan, in addition to its own programme of approximately $2 billion.

    “It has very much embraced this regional integration vision that (former) Secretary Clinton and now Secretary Kerry have endorsed to open up all of these trade links to allow for, for example, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline and other forms of infrastructure,” Blake said.