The US is happy over Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Bangladesh last month, as it welcomes Delhi’s efforts to strengthen regional ties and in which Washington believes it has roles to play.
The new Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, invited all SAARC leaders to his swearing in ceremony and sent his foreign minister Sushma Swaraj to Bangladesh in her first stand-alone visit to any country within a month of assuming the office.
Washington’s point person for South Asia Nisha Desai Biswal said the US welcomed the new government’s efforts to strengthen SAARC.
“We were pleased to see Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj make her first official visit abroad to Bangladesh in late June,” she said while testifying before the senate committee on foreign relations on India-US ties on Wednesday.
She said the US’s locus of strategic interests is in Asia and that “a strong US-India partnership will help us address shared challenges and seize shared opportunities”.
President Barack Obama describes India-US partnership as one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century.
Biswal said Prime Minister Modi’s invitation to SAARC leaders during his swearing in ceremony demonstrated “his firm commitment to strengthen India’s ties with its immediate neighbourhood”.
“That’s good news for India and the region, and greatly beneficial for global stability,” Biswal, Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, said.
She said rising India is in the US interest and that “a strong India will play a critical role in the coming decades in shaping the Asian landscape”.
“….and our partnership with India will play an increasingly important role in that context”.
She said the Modi government has created “a historic opportunity to re-energize our relationship”.
Inviting regional leaders to his swearing-in ceremony, she said, was his signal that India will play “a greater strategic role in its immediate neighborhood and across the Indo-Pacific region”.
Biswal said India has a chance “to carry its entire neighborhood along for greater prosperity and peace by boosting trade and building connectivity throughout South Asia and the Bay of Bengal region”.
She said India trades much more with Europe, the US, and the Middle East than with its immediate South Asian neighbors, which is “a global economic anomaly”.
She said India can help address this “by shaping a connectivity network between India, South Asia, and the rest of the continent”.
“We are also confident that the United States can play a helpful role in facilitating trade and connectivity in South Asia, through our New Silk Road and Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor strategies”.
“American firms have voiced strong support for our leadership in the region, noting that US technology should be instrumental in developing cross-border ties in the region”.
Biswal said the US has “a tremendous opportunity” by encouraging greater physical connectivity through new ports.
This, she said, will boost “last mile” connectivity across the Bay of Bengal region, and link key Indian, Bangladeshi, and Burmese transit hubs.
She said the US has also opportunity to help shape regional regulatory architecture through regional trade and transit agreements, improving the investment climate for greater foreign direct investment, and reducing non-tariff trade barriers throughout South Asia.
Biswal, however, did not mention China in her written statement, but said: “While some believe our renewed strategic commitment to India comes at the expense of other regional powers, we see it differently”.
“We welcome the rise of any power in Asia that upholds global norms and contributes to the stability and prosperity of the continent”.
But her stress was clearly on democratisation.
“We also welcome, with India, the opportunity to showcase the commonalities that bind the largest democracies in the Indo-Pacific region, including India, Indonesia, Australia, Japan, and the United States”.
Biswal said Secretary of State John Kerry is planning to travel to New Delhi later this month to co-chair the US-India Strategic Dialogue with his new counterpart Sushma Swaraj.
She said they expect that the strategic dialogue will kick off “a series of cabinet- and sub-cabinet-level visits throughout the late summer and fall, culminating in the visit of Prime Minister Modi to Washington at the invitation of the President”.
Source: Bd news24