Afghan-India trade to boost stability
WASHINGTON (PAN): India's ambassador to the US, Nirupama Rao, said on Friday that overland trade from Afghanistan to her country via Pakistan would be a boon to regional stability, insisting New Delhi wanted closer trade ties with Islamabad, despite a spike in tensions.
"Afghanistan is a trade hub of Asia, the heart of Asia and the connective tissue between South and Central Asia," Rao told a Washington audience.
“We have to ensure that Afghanistan plays that role, for its own well-being, for our own well-being. Transit and trade with Afghanistan through Pakistan into India is important in that context,” she said in response to a question after delivering remarks on “US-India Economic Agenda in 2013” at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington-based eminent US think-tank.
“I am not saying this because I have been authorised at the policy level to say this. I am saying this from my own knowledge of the subject and the constraints that we have faced and to allow Afghanistan to come into its own to really make its debut in terms of being trading partner for other South Asian nations, to enable free flow of goods and services to the rest of the region,” said the Indian Ambassador.
Her comments come despite a fraying in relations that had recently improved between the nuclear rivals and was driven by the mutual benefit they can get from more commerce.
In a reminder of the core issues that divide them, India this week accused Pakistan of involvement in a militant attack in Kashmir, the Himalayan territory they both claim and over which they fought two wars.
On Thursday, Pakistan's parliament condemned India's hanging of a Kashmiri man convicted in a terror attack New Delhi blamed on Pakistan. The condemnation drew an angry reaction from India.
Rao did not directly address the current tensions but said whatever their differences, India and Pakistan cannot ignore the fact they are close neighbors. She said it was "very encouraging" that Pakistani businessmen in particular have a great desire to open trade with India. Much of the current trade goes through third-countries or illegal channels.
The ambassador also made a pitch for the prospect of more trade from Afghanistan, which has been a source of dispute as India and Pakistan vie for influence in the region.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland reiterated strong US support Friday for dialogue between India and Pakistan. She said they have made good strides on economic cooperation and on visas.
"We want it to continue and be expanded to security concerns they have with each other," Nuland told a news briefing.
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