US Hails Indian Efforts to Rebuild Afghanistan

Washington, May 14 (IANS) Taking note of India's "enhanced position as a regional leader" the United States has welcomed New Delhi's boost in aid to Kabul and strong support to international efforts to rebuild a stable Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's just concluded visit to Kabul "underscored India's strong efforts to support international efforts to rebuild a secure, stable Afghanistan," Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake said Friday.

During his Kabul visit, Manmohan Singh pledged $500 million in fresh aid to Afghanistan, raising the Indian contribution to $2 billion, he noted in a speech at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a think-tank.

"India has assisted with critical infrastructure, like power stations and the Parliament building, and small development projects like health care facilities and wells," Blake said.

Manmohan Singh "recognized India's enhanced position as a regional leader" to spearhead the initiative to normalise relations with Pakistan, Blake said noting that he had invited his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani to watch a World Cup cricket match in March.

Building on the 'cricket diplomacy' launched by "Prime Ministers Singh and Gilani in Mohali, the commerce secretaries
of the two countries met last month in Islamabad and jointly announced ambitious commitments to enhance trade and commercial ties," Blake noted.

"India's economic rise presents an enormous opportunity for Pakistan, and the normalisation of economic ties could provide immense benefits to millions of entrepreneurs, farmers and businesspeople in both countries," he said.

"More critically, a bilateral breakthrough could provide a catalyst for wider regional economic integration, a transformative goal we all wish realised," he said.


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