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US wants ‘New Silk Road’ in Central Asia to trade with India

September 20
03:39 2011

US has backed a 'New Silk Road' to boost connectivity across India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

NEW YORK: The United States has backed a “New Silk Road” through Central Asia to boost economic connectivity across India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, with the Secretary of State envisaging a trade network in the region where a “Pakistani businessman can set up shop in Bangalore”.

Hillary Clinton discussed the need for the New Silk Road with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar in a meeting here on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, senior US officials said.

The officials said Clinton’s vision of the new Silk Road encompasses “an economic space between Central Asia and India, Bangladesh.”

Such a route will be a modern day manifestation of the historical Silk Road, through which South and Central Asian nations connected with each other for trade and cultural exchanges.

Indian merchants used to trade spices, gems and textiles from the Great Wall of China to the banks of the Bosphorus through this silk route.

The new Silk Road would not be a single thoroughfare like its namesake, but an international web and network of economic and transit connections, officials said.

“That means building more rail lines, highways, energy infrastructure, like the proposed pipeline to run from Turkmenistan, through Afghanistan, through Pakistan into India. It means upgrading the facilities at border crossings, such as India and Pakistan are now doing at Wagah,” they said.

The New Silk Road would also focus on removing bureaucratic barriers and other impediments to the free flow of goods and people. . Today, an Indian businessman has to import cement from Southeast Asia instead of from the flourishing cement industry next door in Pakistan, while a traveler going between India and Pakistan not only has a difficult time getting a visa he also often has to be routed through airports a thousand miles away just to get across the border.

But a new silk road aims to eliminate hassles for people and goods to cross borders.

Such a trading structure will help an entrepreneur in Chennai to put her products on a truck that travels uninterrupted through Pakistan, through Afghanistan, to her customer in Kazakhstan. It would mean that a Pakistani businessman should be able to open a branch in Bangalore.

Officials said the Silk Road strategy would also essentially help Afghanistan become economically self sufficient. It would give impetus to big regional projects like the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline.

They said while it will take time to realize such cooperation, it will be in the interest of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan as well as other nations. -PTI



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