The day-long meeting was hosted by New Delhi under the Heart of Asia process aimed at helping insurgency-ridden Afghanistan get back on its feet economically.
It comes as the US is looking at ways to sharpen its Afghan military strategy, recognizing that the 16-year-old war has become an “eroding stalemate” as a Reuters report from Washington put it, citing unnamed Trump administration officials. In recent years, the rebel Taliban who were ousted from Kabul in 2001 by a US-led military coalition, have made a remarkable comeback, with suspected help from Pakistan—a charge Islamabad vehemently denies.
A press release put out by the Indian foreign ministry in New Delhi after the meeting said: “There was consensus that economic development was an important factor in ensuring peace and stability in Afghanistan and the Heart of Asia Region.”
“In this context, the participants shared views on various measures and steps to promote transit and trade and realizing reliable and robust connectivity, with Afghanistan as the hub. This included the recognition of the need to make the existing transit and trade agreements more inclusive and comprehensive by expanding them both northwards and southwards to connect South Asia with Central Asia; strengthening growth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and involvement of women in economic development, including through women entrepreneurship; and simplifying customs procedures,” it said.
An initiative by India to develop a web portal, with participation of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry lobby group for exchanging information on regional markets, trade and investment opportunities besides facilitating networking between businesses for the participating countries was appreciated, the statement said.
Steps taken for the development of transit and transport through Iran’s Chahbahar Port involving India, Afghanistan and Iran, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, the Central Asia-South Asia electricity transmission and trade project, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan railway line, Lapis Lazuli corridor connecting Afghanistan—through Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia—to the Black Sea and ultimately through Turkey to the Mediterranean Sea and Europe, were assessed positively, the statement said.
“All sides agreed on the value of such connectivity and economic integration projects to overall growth, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan,” it added.