Washington DC – The United States sees India as a vital component of not only Southeast Asia but also “as a lynchpin of the new Silk Road vision,” outlined US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last summer, according to Robert Blake, Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs.
Answering questions from lawmakers on the Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, during a hearing titled, “Assessing US Foreign Policy Priorities and Needs Amidst Economic Challenges in South Asia,” on Wednesday, Ambassador Blake said India would be “the largest market in the region so they are so important to developing so many of these regional projects like the Turkmenistan – Afghanistan – Pakistan – India pipeline,” noting that India was “making a lot of progress with Pakistan on the bilateral trade side.”
In his remarks, Blake welcomed the steps taken by the governments of India and Pakistan to normalize trade and commercial ties, adding, “This process of normalization in both directions could lead to at least a 10 billion dollar increase in trade, not to mention expansion of economic opportunity and stability in the wider region.”
On the bilateral relationship between the two democracies, Blake declared Secretary Clinton’s just concluded visit to India was “a very positive and productive visit to New Delhi and Calcutta.”
Anticipating that bilateral goods and services trade would swell beyond a hundred billion dollars this year, Blake said such an increase would represent a quadrupling of US-India trade since 2000.
With US defense industry sales hitting approximately $9 billion and robust military exercises taking place, Ambassador Blake said the “security relationship is headed to an all time high.”
Although Congressman Steve Chabot, Chairman of the Subcommittee, railed against the lukewarm Indian response to the implementation of the historic civil nuclear deal, Assistant Secretary Blake said progress was continuing but he noted more work is needed “to create a level field for US companies to fully participate in India’s Civil Nuclear market.”
Ambassador Blake also addressed the the sensitive issue of Iranian oil, commending India for taking action to reduce its import of crude oil from Iran saying, “India shares our goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.” (IATNS)