Year in Review: Advancing Partnerships in South and Central Asia

Posted by Robert O. Blake
January 8, 2011
Assistant Secretary Blake Speaks With Refugees in Uzbekistan

About the Author: Robert O. Blake serves as Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs.

As we begin 2011, I've had the chance to look back so we can build on the many accomplishments in the region in 2010. We advanced our strategic partnership with India with a path-breaking presidential visit, supported peace and stability efforts in Afghanistan with our regional partners, and worked with Kazakhstan to host a successful OSCE Summit that underlined important human rights principles. We ended 2010 with the first Central Asian parliamentary democracy in Kyrgyzstan to complement the fact that we now have democratically elected governments in all of South Asia for the first time in history.

President Obama's trip to India in November marked a watershed in which we entered a new phase of our global strategic partnership, as the President affirmed in his support for a permanent seat for India on the UN Security Council. He also announced an overhaul of our export controls regime with respect to India, which will open new high tech trade opportunities to benefit both our countries; new partnerships to jointly develop clean energy technology; a project to make cutting-edge satellite data available for Indian farmers; and nearly $15 billion in commercial deals.

But truly groundbreaking, we embarked on a new era of working with India on global challenges showing India's readiness to help take responsibility for managing the global system. India's Global Center for Nuclear Energy Partnership will enhance global nuclear security efforts, while its eventual membership in the four major nonproliferation regimes will strengthen global nonproliferation efforts. In the coming year we will also pursue joint activities in Afghanistan on women's development, agriculture and capacity building to help further stabilization efforts in that country. We will work with India to extend food security in Africa. And we agreed for the first time to develop a partnership on democracy by sharing expertise and supporting global initiatives in the areas of open governance and election management.

I gave a speech at the Heritage Foundation in December that elaborates on many of these topics, so if there's further interest I encourage you to take a look on the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs' website.

We also made inroads elsewhere in South Asia. The United States and Bangladesh continue to partner together on a wide range of priorities including food security, climate change, global health, counterterrorism, and democracy promotion. We have actively supported the peace process and constitution building in Nepal to prepare it for a smooth transition after the UN Mission in Nepal departs later this month. In Sri Lanka, we remained committed to encouraging a post-conflict reconciliation and accountability process to move the country further towards sustained peace and prosperity.

Maldives still stands as a successful, moderate Islamic democracy despite some political turmoil in 2010, and it continues to punch above its weight on global issues like climate change and human rights. And Bhutan, also a young, thriving democracy, hosted a successful South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation Summit, in which I happily participate as the U.S. observer.

Moving north, our Central Asian partners continued to assist our effort to bring peace and prosperity to Afghanistan. We advanced the Northern Distribution Network, which provides supplies and goods to our troops, by concluding the Kazakhstan Air Transit Agreement, among several other improvements. Kazakhstan also provided scholarships for Afghan students, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan supplied electricity for the people of Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan nearly completed a new rail line to connect Hairaton to Mazar-e-Sharif.

The United States also played an important role in supporting Kyrgyzstan's transition to a parliamentary democracy, which Secretary Clinton characterized as a "bold endeavor" during her trip to Kyrgyzstan in December. Kyrgyzstan held the first elections in Central Asia in which the results were truly not known beforehand. We committed more than $100 million to help Kyrgyzstan and its people recover, reconcile and build sustainable democratic institutions.

Lastly, Secretary Clinton led the U.S. delegation to the OSCE summit hosted in early December by Kazakhstan, the first post-Soviet, Eurasian, Muslim majority country to host an OSCE summit. The summit resulted in an important reaffirmation of the Helsinki Principles, which uphold human rights throughout Eurasia. Before the Summit, the United States and Kazakhstan completed the project to shut down the BN-350 reactor in Aktau and transport 100 tons of weapons-grade fuel to a new secure storage facility in Eastern Kazakhstan. Secretary Clinton's trip and our sustained high level engagement with Central Asia show the continuing United States commitment to our relations with our Central Asian partners. I can assure you that that high level engagement will continue in 2011.

In November of last year, I testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee regarding our efforts in Central Asia, where you can find more regarding our policies in Central Asia.

I look forward to moving our partnerships forward even further in 2011 and keeping you all informed of our diplomacy in South and Central Asia. You can follow our efforts in the South and Central Asia by signing up for email updates, following us on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, and of course our regular blog entries on DipNote. Thank you for your interest!

Comments

Comments

Gary Z.
|
North Carolina, USA
January 9, 2011

Gary Z. in North Carolina writes:

America's strategic partnership with India is not nearly as rosy as Assistant Secretary of State Blake describes. The US and India have, according to very well-informed Indian sources, jointly agreed to bow to Chinese pressure to cancel an ongoing humanitarian operation to recover the remains of the crew of the US Army Air Force B-24 "Hot as Hell". China claims the Indian border region - Arunachal Pradesh - where this plane's crash site is located, and India's United Progressive Alliance government and the Obama Administration have apparently decided that it's more important to placate the Chinese than to live up to their obligations under international humanitarian law to return the remains of these aviators to their families.

.

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