Pakistan lies at the heart of tremendous trade prospects between Central and South Asia and Pakistan-India relationship will also be integral to realising regional economic integration, a senior US official said.
“One of the things that we would like to work on more over the next fewmonths and years is to increase the amount of trade and investment in the whole region ---- this concept of a new ‘Silk Road’, of an economic region integrated from Central Asia all the way to New Delhi -- maybe even to Bangladesh. Who is at the center of that? The center is Afghanistan and Pakistan,” the Obama Administration’s special representative Marc Grossman said.
In an interview with Voice of America, Grossman envisoned “a day when goodswill move back and forth from Central Asia to India, through Afghanistan, through Pakistan”.
“What will that do? It will increase jobs, it will increase the capacity of people in Afghanistan and Pakistan to make choices about their own lives in the economic sphere. I think that’s extremely important – market access, more goods, more investment, more jobs – these are things that are extremely important to both Pakistan and Afghanistan.” Another important part here, he noted, is the “relationship between India and Pakistan, because clearly, as goods and services and people move up and down this Silk Road, they also need to move successfully between India and Pakistan.”
He appreciated the work the Indian and Pakistani commerce ministers have recently done together as “very positive”.
“Some of the other ministers, including the foreign ministers who have met-- if we can continue to see that kind of progress between India and Pakistan, it will also be a foundation for this vision, this idea of economic integration running from Central Asia to India, or even actually to Bangladesh.”
On US-Pakistan relations, he noted, Pakistan and the United States have had a relationship for a long time.
“Like in all relationships, sometimes it’s better, sometimes it’s worse. But our job now is to see if we can’t get back to basic principles between Pakistan and the United States. When I was there a few weeks ago, it seemed to me that the foundation for Pakistani-American relations is that Pakistanis and Americans can find shared interests, and then act on them jointly. I think that if we can follow that philosophy, we’ll do ourselves some good.”
The special envoy applauded President Asif Ali Zardari’s decision to legalise political parties for the first time in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, bordering Afghanistan.
“Obviously, the way Pakistan organises its own government is its business,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 21st, 2011.