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Linking South And Central Asia

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher urged officials from Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan to "establish a framework to develop together a regional power transmission corridor linking Central and South Asia." Mr. Boucher made the remarks at a conference in Istanbul, Turkey.

He said the United States and other donors are assisting Tajikistan's efforts in conjunction with the U.S. energy company A-E-S, to rebuild power lines and export electrical power to Afghanistan as soon as possible. The U.S. is also providing three-and-a-half-million dollars "to help establish a transparent and competitive Central Asian energy market," and thirty-six million dollars to build a bridge over the Pyanj River between Tajikistan and Afghanistan.

Developing a dependable power system is one of many things needed to stimulate trade and economic growth in South and Central Asia. "Bureaucratic and political trade barriers are major factors as well," said Assistant Secretary of State Boucher. "To attract private businesses, governments need to do their part to assure transparency, rule-of-law, and protection of investments," he said.

Mr. Boucher also said, "Afghanistan is at the pivot point for interactions between South and Central Asia. . . .It has the potential to be a land bridge connecting the vast Kazakh steppes and beyond and the great ports of the Indian Ocean and greater Asia." Afghanistan and Pakistan recently agreed to step up economic cooperation, including the development of road links and other infrastructure.

Trade between Afghanistan and Pakistan has grown from less than two-hundred-million dollars in 2000 to more than one-billion dollars over the past year. Writing in The Pakistan Times newspaper, commentator Rizwan Ghani said a stable Afghanistan "means [the] possibility of realization of [the] import of electricity from Turkmenistan. It could mean more gas pipelines in the region. . . .It could initiate the entire chain of economic activity that experts believe could bring economic boom in the region."

Assistant Secretary of State Boucher says the U.S. hopes that Central and South Asia, with a revitalized Afghanistan at its hub, will again be "a crossroads between Europe and Asia," and "again bring together the goods, people, and ideas of the world."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.