US looks at India as key player for maritime security

Washington, March 30 (IANS) The US looks at India, a regional power that is committed to advancing the rules-based international order, as “a key player and an important partner in advancing maritime security in the Indo-Pacific.”

“By far the area of greatest potential is in maritime security, especially as we engage in unprecedented cooperation with India, the region’s largest maritime power,” Nisha Desai Biswal, assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, said here Monday.

“As the economies of Asia continue to rise, so too will the need for greater maritime security in the Indo-Pacific region,” she said dilating on US policies and priorities for 2016 in South and Central Asia at Centre for a New American Security.

“So as a regional power that is committed to advancing the rules-based international order, India has become a key player and an important partner in advancing maritime security in the Indo-Pacific,” she said.

“As such, our bilateral cooperation is increasingly taking on trilateral and multilateral aspects,” Biswal said noting last year, US annual naval exercise with India, MALABAR, also included ships from Japan’s world-class navy

Maritime security was also a central focus of the inaugural US-India-Japan ministerial in New York last September.

And last summer, for the first time Indian vessels joined the US, China, and twenty other nations in the RIMPAC exercise, the world’s largest international maritime exercise.

Defence trade between India and US has increased substantially, from a mere $300 million just over a decade ago, to close to $14 billion today, Biswal noted.

And through the US-India Defence Technology and Trade Initiative, for the first time ever the two countries are working together with another country on its indigenous aircraft carrier development programme.

“In the not-too-distant future, we hope to see the day when the US and Indian navies, including our aircraft carriers, are cooperating on the high seas, protecting freedom of navigation for all nations,” Biswal said.

“There is no question that a rising India, now the world’s fastest-growing large economy, is and will continue to be the engine of South Asia’s growth.”

“So looking across the entire spectrum, I think a picture emerges of a South and Central Asia region of rising importance in Asia, as well as to the United States,” she said.

“The biggest factor is of course India, and the economic resurgence that is underway there.”

According to the US-India Business Council, almost 30 US companies have invested over $15 billion in the last year and a half, with over 50 US firms expected to ink more that $27 billion worth of deals over the next year.

“Much of the focus has been on the economic partnership, and while there continue to be challenges, we have seen a dramatic rise in US investment in India, which today outpaces US investment in China,” Biswal said.

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