'Regional players anxious on Afghan transition'
WASHINGTON (PAN): A top American diplomat, who has been nominated by President Obama as his point person for South and Central Asia, has said “there is a lot of anxiety among regional players about post-2104 Afghanistan."
“At the same time there is a near unanimity among these countries a stable and secure Afghanistan is in the interest of the entire region,” Nisha Desai Biswal told members of Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“Yet, it's important to remember that while there are many players with divergent interests, all are interested in a stable and secure Afghanistan that brings benefit to the entire neighborhood,” she said during her confirmation hearing for the Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia.
While her portfolio does not include Afghanistan and Pakistan, Biswal said if confirmed, she would work to promote US policies that will make regional economic integration a reality, knitting together all of the countries of the region through a web of economic, energy, transit, trade and people-to-people linkages.
She said the entire region is focused on the upcoming transition in Afghanistan, and implications for future security, stability and prosperity. “While my direct responsibilities, if confirmed, would not include Afghanistan or Pakistan, one of the bureau's top priorities will be to work with Ambassador Dobbins and his team to support that transition by strengthening Afghanistan's economic connectivity to its neighbors,” she said.
“Already we have seen strong cooperation from South and Central Asian states in support of our efforts in Afghanistan. India, which has provided over USD2 billion in economic aid, continues to play an important role. And all five Central Asian states have provided vital support for our mission and for our military through the Northern Distribution Network,” she said.
Biswal said if confirmed, she would work closely with Dobbins on the priorities that the US President, Barack Obama, has set for an Afghanistan that is stable, secure and economically linked and integrated into its neighborhood is one that she will work diligently towards. “One aspect of that is going to be looking at how the countries of the region interact with Afghanistan,” she said.
“Already much work has been done to promote trade and people-to- people linkages. Turkmenistan is currently working towards a rail line that will connect Turkmenistan to Tajikistan via Afghanistan. Uzbekistan has already established rail linkages into Mazar-e Sharif,” she said.
“There is tremendous power that is already being provided by Uzbekistan, the lights are on in Kabul because of Uzbek power. So there are already much that is happening. Kazakhstan has been a tremendous supporter and an important player for our efforts in Afghanistan,” Biswal said.
Responding to a question, Biswal said S there is convergence of interest in that neither India nor Pakistan want to see an insecure and unstable Afghanistan. “I think that the opportunity that we have before us is to engage both countries on that particular interest. Ultimately, the efforts for Afghanistan's political transition and reconciliation will be Afghan-led,” she said.
“It will be for the Afghan's to determine how they will engage with other partners in the region. We are certainly supportive of working with all of the interested parties towards that,” Biswal said.
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