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The U.S.- India Partnership in the Asian Century Part II

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Remarks By Robert O. Blake, Jr. *

Read Part I

Regional Cooperation

As we build a vital economic partnership with India, we also support India’s broader role in the Asia-Pacific region. With many of the world’s nuclear powers, half of its population, and some of the most dynamic economies in the world in the Asia Pacific, we firmly believe that much of the history of the 21st century will be written here. That is why President Obama called for a rebalance of U.S. foreign policy toward this region.

We should not forget, however, that for India the notion of the Asia-Pacific region as a key driver of global politics and economics is nothing new. It has shared cultural and historical ties that have laid the foundation for its expanded involvement of today. Through the "Look East" policy it initiated in 1991, India began to link itself more closely with its Asian partners to engage the rest of the world. Today India is forging closer and deeper economic ties with its eastern neighbors by expanding regional markets and increasing both investments and industrial development. India is also seeking greater security and military cooperation with its neighbors through greater commitment with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The United States supports and welcomes these developments. We have encouraged India to not simply look east, but to "engage east and act east" as well. We welcome robust Indian economic engagement with the states of East and Southeast Asia, and we see even greater potential in this region.

Thanks in part to Burma’s recent political and economic reforms, we now see unprecedented opportunities for trade and engagement between South and East Asia, especially along the emergent road, air, and sea links between India, Bangladesh, Burma, and the rapidly expanding economies of ASEAN.

In the past year alone, trade between India and the countries of Southeast Asia increased by 37%. This emerging Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor is a boon for the region; at the same time, it also provides our economy with potential new markets. Linkages across the rapidly expanding economies of South Asia with those of Southeast Asia will both accelerate economic development and strengthen regional stability, while helping unlock and expand markets for American goods and services.

Because of our shared interest in a secure, interconnected, and economically prosperous Asia-Pacific region, we have increased our dialogue and cooperation with India in the Asia Pacific. Through the semiannual U.S.-India Consultations on the Asia-Pacific and the India-U.S.-Japan Trilateral Consultations, we share a vital exchange of views on the development of this crucial region. Our discussions emphasize how we can better align strategies to reinforce one another’s engagement.

To protect and advance our growing, shared economic interests, we are working together to ensure security in the Indian Ocean and beyond. India transports over 90% of its goods by sea, and shares our interest in ensuring that trade flows remain open. Like us, India understands that economic integration, enabled by the improvements in connectivity across Asia, will lead to prosperity that benefits all countries in the region. Already in the Western Indian Ocean region, India is demonstrating its growing maritime capabilities with a robust counter-piracy approach that serves common regional interests. As a founding member of the international Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, India has shown great leadership in the efforts to combat piracy stemming from Somalia, which threatens trade flows to and from Asia.

South Asia

Our interests also increasingly converge on issues such as promoting democracy and peace in India’s neighbors to the north, east and south. As you may have heard, earlier today the UN Human Rights Council, including India, voted in favor of a U.S.-led resolution calling on the Government of Sri Lanka to fulfill its commitments to its people on post-conflict accountability and reconciliation. India’s support and close coordination has been crucial. The United States and India are Sri Lanka’s largest trading partners, and we share a mutual desire to see peace and reconciliation among all Sri Lankans.

We both want to see Nepal’s transition to a full constitutional democracy come to fruition and welcome the formation of the Interim Election government. And we are glad to see India’s increasingly close cooperation and progress in addressing long-standing disputes with Bangladesh. With all three, we have strongly welcomed India’s regional role as a beacon of democracy and economic prosperity.

Afghanistan

Nowhere is India’s role more critical than in Afghanistan, particularly as we prepare for the 2014 transition. The Afghan government looks to India as a regional source of economic, political and security support. India is the largest regional investor in Afghanistan, led by a planned $10 billion mining investment, and has committed more than $2 billion in official assistance for reconstruction purposes. Last year New Delhi hosted a major summit on international investment in Afghanistan’s economy. As Afghanistan shifts its economy from aid to trade in the coming years, India’s regional role as a driver of economic prosperity and anchor of democratic stability becomes even more important.

Next month in Almaty, India and other countries of the region, will meet to discuss how they can best support a secure and prosperous Afghanistan, integrated into its region. This gathering is part of the Istanbul Process, in which Afghanistan’s neighbors and near-neighbors support Afghanistan through a range of initiatives that advance security and regional economic cooperation. For instance, India chairs a working group focused on expanding cross-border commercial and business-to-business relations. We welcome India’s leadership, because the United States and India have a shared interest in Afghanistan’s security and prosperity as well as a shared vision for increasing regional cooperation in support of Afghanistan.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I am proud to report that our partnership has achieved much, whether it’s creating jobs and economic opportunity for American and Indians; meeting the need to educate the next generation; promoting security and prosperity in Afghanistan and the region; or countering the effects of climate change. But this partnership holds the promise for even more – and for that we look to you. If the next generation of students, educators, businesspeople, and artists have the same opportunity that I have had, to build new collaborations and form lasting friendships with the people of India, I am confident you will help fulfill the promise of this “defining partnership of the 21st century.” Thank you.

* Robert O Blake, Jr, is Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs

The remarks were made on March 21, 2013 at University of California, Berkeley Institute of International Studies Berkeley, CA

Concluded

[Source: US State Department]

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