U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Richard Boucher says that "there's a new sense of momentum and a new sense of energy" in many parts of South and Central Asia. At a briefing at the Foreign Press Center in Washington, D.C., Mr. Boucher said Pakistan’s recent election is good news for the region:
"It's a successful transition to a democratic government. As we said before the election, we hope they would produce a democratic government with a strong moderate center, and indeed, they formed a coalition of centrist parties. And everybody there, I think, is looking at how to move forward as a modern society and to encourage moderation and have a stable basis themselves to fight the extremism and the terrorism that afflicts Pakistan as well as the neighborhood and the world beyond."
"Pakistanis in the new government," said Mr. Boucher, "understand this is their struggle, this is their war." Next door in Afghanistan, said Mr. Boucher, efforts are being made to improve security and hasten reconstruction and development:
"We've also had a very significant meeting on Afghanistan with our NATO and ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] partners in Bucharest, where you heard from the international community a strong commitment, again, broad-based using all available tools and means, to bring stability to Afghanistan. And we've had one of the appointments that I think sort of reflects where I'd like to see the effort concentrate this year, and that's the appointment of Kai Eide as the new Special Representative to the UN Secretary General for Afghanistan."
Mr. Boucher noted that Nepal and Bhutan have recently held elections that hold the promise of a successful transition to democracy. In India, he said, cooperation with the U.S. is growing in many areas, and the U.S. hopes to go forward with work on the Civil Nuclear Agreement. In Central Asia, the U.S. has held some useful talks with Kazakhstan about expanded economic ties and developing a public-private partnership. The U.S. also looks forward to productive talks with Turkmenistan.
Assistant Secretary of State Boucher said that South and Central Asia face many challenges and new opportunities. For its part, he said, the U.S. will "work with the new people in charge and try to make [good] things really happen for the people of the region."