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Dialogue In South and Central Asia

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov signs the East-West gas pipeline at a gas-compressor station in Shatlyk, Turkmenistan, in this file photo. Turkmenistan launched work last year on a new gas pipeline that will connect the hydrocarbon-rich Centr

One of the key objectives of the United States [was] to increase integration between Central Asia and South Asia.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake of the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs told reporters recently in Beijing that he had productive and constructive discussions with his counterparts in China on South and Central Asia. "The purpose of this [dialogue] was to explore with officials from the Chinese government . . . how we can collaborate and coordinate our efforts . . . in areas of mutual interest," he said.

The discussions covered a wide range of issues, including regional political developments, energy security, the role of multilateral organizations and humanitarian concerns. "The United States is very aware of China’s important role in the region," Assistant Secretary Blake said. "We welcome China as a strong, prosperous and successful member of the international community."

"We see South and Central Asia as one of the most diverse yet least integrated regions in the world." Assistant Secretary Blake continued, "While the countries [from these two regions] have developed along different trajectories, we still consider them all to have great potential." Rapidly growing economies like India; fast emerging markets like Bangladesh and Kazakhstan; and resource rich countries like Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan all highlight the existence of this potential.

One of the key objectives of the United States [was] to increase integration between Central Asia and South Asia. "We support integration because we think it would make . . . an important difference to the prosperity and stability of the region." Assistant Secretary Blake emphasized, "We’ve been very encouraged by the progress that has been made on the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline . . . which . . . [could] be a very valuable opportunity to increase energy links between these two important regions. . . [T]here could be other infrastructure efforts that build on the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement . . . that would allow for greater trade between South Asia and Central Asia."

In addition to bilateral engagement, the discussions between China and the United States included the importance of relevant regional organizations. "In Central Asia, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization seeks to bolster security, economic and cultural cooperation between China, Russia and Central Asia," Assistant Secretary Blake concluded. "[W]e seek to facilitate . . . cooperation among regional organizations that reflect the geopolitical and economic realities of a 21st Century Asia."