'US looking at India to play a key role in Afghan stability'
Washington: As the United States gets ready for withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan in 2014 it is increasingly looking at India to play a key role to maintain stability in the war-torn country, a top Obama Administration official has said.
"As Afghanistan increasingly takes the lead in its own security, political, and economic situation, we also strongly support the constructive role that India is playing in Afghanistan's ongoing development," the Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Robert Blake, said in his address to the Harvard University last Friday.
Noting that the US and India are both strong supporters of a more economically integrated South and Central Asia, with Afghanistan at its heart -- what is being called as the New Silk Road vision, Blake said at the core of this vision is an Afghanistan at peace.
"There's perhaps no better example of the potential impact of the New Silk Road vision on Afghanistan and the region than the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline, or TAPI," he said.
By connecting abundant energy reserves in Turkmenistan to South Asia, where energy demand is rising rapidly TAPI can be transformative for the region, along with providing Afghanistan with much-needed transit revenue, he asserted.
"We look to India to play an active part in ensuring that that stability and security endure and that the gains made in Afghanistan over the past 11 years are sustained," Blake said.
"Indeed, great challenges lie ahead. But India is committed to our shared vision for a peaceful, stable and secure Afghanistan and has already proven its commitment to assume a greater role in enabling that vision to come to fruition," he said.
Blake said the countries of the region have embraced a new vision for Afghanistan that places it at the center of a rejuvenated network of commerce, communications and energy transmission, a "land bridge" connecting the Middle East and central Asia to the dynamic markets of China, India and Southeast Asia.
In 2011, India pledged through the signing of a wide-ranging strategic agreement to train and equip Afghan security forces, he noted, adding that as the largest regional provider of humanitarian and reconstruction aid to Afghanistan, India has given some USD 2 billion in aid to the country.
As Afghanistan shifts the foundation of its economy from aid to trade in the coming years, India's regional role as a driver of economic prosperity and anchor of democratic stability becomes even more important.
"Later this month, the United States, India, and other countries of the region, will meet to discuss in Almaty on how we can best support a secure and prosperous Afghanistan, integrated into its region," Blake informed.
Last year New Delhi hosted a major summit on international investment in Afghanistan's economy.