NEW DELHI — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says the world’s largest democracy can play a key role in shaping Afghanistan’s future. The secretary arrived late Sunday in New Delhi for the fourth annual U.S.-India strategic dialogue.
In a speech praising India’s spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship, Secretary of State John Kerry also emphasized the rising economic power’s importance to the greater South Asian region - including the fate of Afghanistan.
India has provided more than $2 billion towards Afghanistan’s development. Secretary Kerry acknowledged India’s leadership in helping the war-torn country achieve stability, particularly in Afghan elections set for next year. “The world’s largest democracy can play a central role in helping the government of Afghanistan improve its electoral system and create a credible and independent framework for resolving disputes," he said.
Kerry added that a successful 2014 election will mark the first time in Afghanistan’s history that one popularly elected leader will peacefully replace another.
During a visit last month to New Delhi, Afghan President Hamid Karzai told reporters he gave Indian officials a “wishlist” of military equipment, as international combat forces complete their withdrawal by the end of next year.
India and Afghanistan signed a strategic agreement in 2011, in which New Delhi agreed to help train and equip Afghan forces, though Indian officials have not publicly said whether they will also provide equipment.
Arch rivals India and Pakistan have long vied for influence in Afghanistan. On Sunday, Secretary of State Kerry called for both countries to look past their differences and focus on the common goal of advancing the economy of South Asia.
He called for New Delhi to continue normalizing trade relations with Islamabad, noting that bilateral trade increased 21 percent last year. “I welcome the ongoing discussions about the expansion of energy trade, the establishment of regular air travel between Delhi and Islamabad, and the prospect of more commerce passing through Wagah, all of which would be steps in the right direction," he said.
Kerry said both India and the United States share Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s chief goal of reviving Pakistan’s economy.
During Sunday’s speech in New Delhi, the secretary also spoke about the need for the United States and India to work together to fight climate change - one of the issues set to dominate this week’s strategic dialogue in New Delhi.
He noted that both countries should work together on clean energy to create jobs and sustainable growth.