WASHINGTON: The United States on Wednesday hailed the first new contracts in a pipeline linking Central and South Asia as a “very positive step forward” for regional peace and prosperity.
Turkmenistan on Wednesday signed agreements with India and Pakistan to deliver gas through a new pipeline that will transit Afghanistan, the first contracts in the ambitious project.
“This is a perfect example of energy diversification, energy integration done right. We are very strong supporters of the TAPI pipeline,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.
“We consider it a very positive step forward and sort of a key example of what we’re seeking with our ‘New Silk Road Initiative,’ which aims at regional integration to lift all boats and create prosperity across the region.”
The US-sponsored “New Silk Road” initiative is a long-term vision aimed at developing closer economic ties between Afghanistan and neighboring countries.
Like the ancient Silk Road, Afghanistan would be at the heart of lucrative trade routes between Asia and the West, but it would involve modern highways, rail links and energy pipelines.
In the same news briefing, Nuland kept up US pressure on Pakistan not to pursue a multi-billion dollar gas pipeline project with Iran, even though it also represents a measure of regional integration.
“We don’t think it’s a good idea. We don’t think it’s a reliable route for Pakistan. We’ve also continued to have conversations about diversifying supply and other ways to do that,” Nuland said.
The United States has urged Pakistan as well as its regional neighbors India and Sri Lanka, along with other countries, to cut back on oil imports from Iran.
Under a new law aimed at pressing Iran over its controversial nuclear program, the United States will penalise foreign financial institutions over transactions with the Islamic Republic’s central bank, which handles oil sales.
The sanctions take effect at the end of June.