US reiterates support for India’s role in Afghanistan

US reiterates support for India’s role in Afghanistan

Washington, Sep 16 (IANS) Ahead of the US-India-Afghanistan trilateral talks in New York later this month and in the wake of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s recently concluded visit to New Delhi, Washington has praised India’s “generosity and focus” in helping Afghanistan become a stronger nation.

“We obviously support India’s generosity and focus on Afghanistan and willingness to help Afghanistan become a stronger, independent nation with stronger economic growth, as well as build capacity to defend itself and provide for the security of its people,” US State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner said in the daily press briefing here on Thursday.

“The fact that India is willing to invest in that future — we view as a very positive sign and we appreciate India’s effort,” Toner said.

Following the US-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue in August, US Secretary of State John Kerry said the US, India and Afghanistan would hold a trilateral meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session in September in which New Delhi’s investments in major Afghan infrastructure projects would be discussed.

“I want to thank India for the important contribution that it has been making to the efforts in Afghanistan,” Kerry said during a joint press interaction following the Dialogue on August 30.

During Ghani’s visit to New Delhi on Wednesday, India had pledged $1 billion for the support and development of “a unified, sovereign, democratic, peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan”.

Ghani and Prime Minister Narendra Modi also reaffirmed their resolve to counter terrorism and strengthen security and defence cooperation as envisaged in the India-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreement.

Without naming Pakistan, both the leaders had expressed grave concern over state sponsors of terrorism in the region.

Asked about India’s inclusion in the transit agreement between Afghanistan and Pakistan, Toner said: “I would just say, speaking broadly, that we would support stronger trade relations within the region.

“And we’ve long said that it’s a priority for the US at least, but it should be a priority for the countries in the region to all work cooperatively and constructively together.”

Superseding an earlier deal, the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement was brokered by then US Special Representative to Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke in 2010.

Following Wednesday’s talks between Ghani and Modi, Indian Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar said India was ready to deliver 1.7 lakh tonne of wheat to Afghanistan but there were transit problems.

He said that a transit request was made to Pakistan but there was no reply from Islamabad.

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