Conflicts among India, Pakistan and Afghanistan remain a danger to that region as well as to American interests, said Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., who recently toured the three nations.
But Carper said there is hope.
"I came home modestly encouraged ... across the board, not blindly so, but modestly encouraged," said Carper, who returned to Delaware late Monday.
Carper, a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, arrived in India on April 17, where he met with other lawmakers, including Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
Such trips are common for lawmakers who want to know more about American interests overseas. In February, Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., toured Pakistan, Afghanistan, Jordan and Israel to gauge from the U.S. military if he could support the ongoing war in Afghanistan. Coons concluded the biggest obstacle to success in Afghanistan is Pakistan.
While in India, Carper focused on U.S. interests to help improve economic development, including asking India to reduce its tariffs on American products.
India has a history of erecting barriers in the form of tariffs on products from America and other nations.
Carper said he and others spoke to Indian leaders about barriers that were troublesome and wanted India to reconsider them -- especially as the U.S. lobbies for India to receive a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.
"We think there should be reciprocity," Carper said, adding they would like to see some of the tariffs reduced and in some cases eliminated. "It's a drumbeat that they just need to continue to hear. They heard it from the president, they heard it from our ambassador, they heard it from our delegation."
Carper also toured Pakistan and Afghanistan on diplomatic affairs, as well as to gain a security perspective on the area by meeting with such leaders as Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Delaware's senior senator said he wanted to better understand what the U.S. is doing in Afghanistan. One of the more interesting things Carper said he learned was the ongoing attempt to bring literacy to that nation, especially its military. More than 80 percent of Afghanistan residents are illiterate, Carper said.
"It prepares them for a life after the time that they serve in the military because they will have some literacy skills that can [help them] find jobs and be more successful in their lives," he said. The U.S. is spending about $200 million this year on literacy training in Afghanistan. "It's one of those investments that will pay big dividends later on."
More work has to be done to improve relations between Pakistan and India. This unsteady relationship has caused Pakistan to drain money and divert resources it could use to improve itself and to go after terrorist insurgents in its country, Carper said.
He said he's seen some promise there.
"The real takeaway for me was the realization of the potential for that region that lies in the ability of India and Pakistan to normalize relations," he said. "It would not only be good for those two countries, it would end up helping Afghanistan enormously in the end as well and enable us to eventually leave that country with a far brighter future."