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Pakistan is ready to open the Afghan land route for India: US envoy

WASHINGTON: Pakistan approached Afghanistan earlier this year, signaling its willingness to discuss Pakistan's land route to resume trade between Afghanistan and India, says a senior US diplomat.

In an interview with the Indian Economic Times, Ambassador John Bass said that the reopening of land routes between South and Central Asia would benefit all countries in the region.

Pakistan does not allow India to use the land route to trade with Afghanistan, arguing that technical and strategic issues related to transit trade should be resolved first.

"A few months ago, the Pakistani government expressed for the first time its willingness to hold discussions with its Afghan counterparts about the parameters that allow Pakistan to trade between India and Afghanistan," said Bass.

The US Ambassador to Afghanistan also said Indian companies would gradually increase their investment in Afghanistan. Last year's Delhi show resulted in $ 27 million in investment at the event itself and another $ 200 million in "potential" investment by Indian companies, many of which were realized, he added.

Ambassador Bass told the Indian newspaper that a political settlement in Afghanistan is in Pakistan's long-term interest. "More trade in both directions, more connections through Central and South Asia through Afghanistan – these are all missed opportunities when Pakistan is solely focused on maintaining the status quo," he said.

The US envoy said that India raised the issue of US sanctions against Iran when US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visited New Delhi for two-plus-two talks earlier this month.

The Indians were particularly interested in learning how the sanctions would affect the port of Chabahar, which was built in Iran with Indian aid to connect India with Central Asia through Afghanistan.

The Indian government communicated its perspectives "on the importance of Chabahar as a means of expanding bilateral trade and improving Afghanistan's accession to South Asia," he said.

"We are processing and evaluating how best to reinstate sanctions against Iran, the malicious behavior of the Iranian regime and its activities to destabilize its neighbors," said Ambassador Bass.

"My government is still thinking about how Chabahar is considering the restoration of the toughest sanctions we believe must be implemented to bring the Iranian government to justice."

He said the US government is reviewing the sanctions to see how to deal with such problems without violating the US goal of persuading Iran to change its policy.

Ambassador Bass said the US recognized that the conflict in Afghanistan could not be solved by military means alone. "No one in the US government says at this point that we expect this conflict to end with a military victory.
We believe that conflict will end with a political solution, "he said.

Posted in Dawn, September 16, 2018


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