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US wants India growth to speed up, terms it key business partner

Source : NDTV
March 07, 2013

Washington: The US has termed New Delhi as one of its most trusted and valuable partners in the region, but has expressed concern over India's declining growth rate and an apparent slowdown in its reform process.


During a Congressional hearing, Robert Blake , assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia noted that "any discussion of South Asia has to start with India", but pointed out that the its problems on the economic front threaten US's opportunities in the country.


"India is one of our most trusted and valuable partners in the region and really the foundation upon which greater regional economic cooperation and expansion will be built," Mr Blake said.


"I think the main threat is the declining growth rate that has occurred in India, because of declining investment. And because there has been a slowdown in the economic reform efforts of, you know, over the past several years," he however added.


"It's no secret that the Indian Parliament has been tied up in knots over debates about corruption and other such things. And so very little has gotten done," he said in response to a question from Indian-American Congressman Ami Bera.


Blake said India has passed quite an important reform to open up India for foreign-direct investment in the multi-brand retail sector, which US thinks is very important, but observed that "much more needs to be done".


"They've taken some steps to try to accelerate the approval process for foreign investment. But much more needs to be done and I think the Indians fully recognize that," the US official said.


He praised India's journey of economic development in the past 20 years during which the volume of its GDP "increased 10 times."


"What was then a closed economy is now the 13th largest trading partner of the United States in goods. And by 2025, India is projected to become the world's third-largest economy," he said.


Despite some of these problems, India remains one of the fastest growing economies in the world and it is projected to be the third largest economy in the world by 2025, Mr Blake noted.


Mr Blake was responding to a question from Indian American Congressman Ami Bera, who had sought to know his perspective on India's role in helping maintain stability in Afghanistan, besides efforts to strengthen the US-India relationship.


His remarks assume significance in the backdrop of critical remarks by Defence Secretary-designate Chuck Hagel, who was shown in a video accusing India of "financing problems" in Afghanistan.


India, in its response, had said it did not view its engagement with Afghanistan as a "zero sum game" and New Delhi's development assistance has been deeply appreciated by the people and the Government of Afghanistan.


In her remarks, Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation, said Hagel's statement is not only contrary to reality, but also goes directly against policy of the Obama Administration.


"Senior Obama officials have rightly avoided being baited by the Pakistanis into thinking that India is the source of trouble for US interests in Afghanistan," Ms Curtis said.


"By contrast, India has been one of the largest donors to Afghanistan, assisting with its humanitarian needs, energy projects, and even the construction of the parliament building in Kabul-the most powerful symbol of the burgeoning democratic process in the country," she said.


Curtis said New Delhi strongly supports the US goal of ensuring that Afghanistan never again becomes a haven for international terrorism.


She said a Taliban victory in Afghanistan may directly impact India as the organisation is most likely to facilitate terrorist activities in the country.


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