Washington, April 27 (AFP): The US wants to spearhead a mammoth project transmitting electricity from Central Asia across Afghanistan to Pakistan and India, a senior state department official said.
Under the plan, a regional power grid stretching from Almaty to New Delhi will be fed by oil and gas from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan and hydropower from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
"This vision is within our grasp," Richard Boucher, the assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, told a congressional hearing yesterday.
"Within the next few years, we expect to see private investment lead to the establishment of a 500 kilovolt power line transmitting much-needed electricity from Central Asia across Afghanistan to Pakistan and India," he said.
The US, he said, would like to have a strategic dialogue with the countries to advance regional economic development and integration, of which the high-voltage power project was a critical component.
Central Asia has an abundance of existing and potential oil, gas and electricity sources that the growing economies of South Asia need.
"Together with other donors, we are exploring ways to export electricity from Central Asia to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India," Boucher said.
He added that in partnership with multilateral development banks and other donors, Washington wanted to help "build new links" among the countries of the broader region and connect them more closely to the rest of the world.
"One of our leading objectives is to fund a greatly expanded Afghan power grid, with connections to energy sources in Central Asia. It's a winning solution for both sides, providing much-needed energy to Afghanistan and serving as a major source of future revenue for countries like Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan," he said.
Boucher said the "opening" of Afghanistan had transformed it from an "obstacle" separating Central and South Asia into a "bridge" connecting the two. "And this in turn opens exciting new possibilities."