US says India a player in Afghanistan, support transit options
Washington: Hundred days after President Donald Trump announced his South Asia Strategy, the US has said that India “is a player” in Afghanistan and it supports New Delhi’s move with regard to transit options to enhance its economic connectivity with the war-torn country. “India has really shown that it is a player in Afghanistan and that it is interested in supporting Afghanistan in a very constructive way,” a senior administration official told PTI.
The official speaking on condition of anonymity was reviewing India’s role in the first 100 days of the South Asia Strategy that was announced by Trump in a speech on 21 August. “As you know President Trump in his August 21st speech called on India to play a bigger role in supporting Afghanistan and its economic development. I think India has been answering the call,” the official said.
Referring to a very successful trade conference on Afghanistan in New Delhi in September, the official said it resulted in pledging of hundreds of millions in new deals. India has established air corridor and now the airport door and now has sent its first wheat shipment through Chabahar port in Iran.
“So, the US is supportive of this. We totally support India building up its economic relationship and increasing the transit options so that they can be more economically engaged with Afghanistan. The US has noticed that India has been stepping up its economic engagement with the country,” the senior administration official said.
Responding to a specific question on the Chabahar port given Trump Administration’s policies with Iran, the official said the US does not want IRGC or Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp of Iran to benefit out of any economic activities.
“But again, we understand that India has challenges in getting goods for Afghanistan,” and its inability to have economic linkages because of the inability to trade through Pakistan, the official said. “So, I think that there is an understanding (in the Trump Administration) that if India is to be more economically engaged in Afghanistan there has to be transit options for India,” the senior administration official said.
In his South Asia Strategy speech, Trump had envisioned a major role for India in the economic development of Afghanistan. “Develop its strategic partnership with India — the world’s largest democracy and a key security and economic partner of the United States — is a critical part of the new strategy,” Trump had said in his speech on 21 August.
“We appreciate India’s important contributions to stability in Afghanistan, but India makes billions of dollars in trade with the US, and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development. We are committed to pursuing our shared objectives for peace and security in South Asia and the broader Indo-Pacific region,” Trump had said. PTI
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