Observing that security of the Indian Ocean is “inextricably” linked to the stability of global economy, a senior US diplomat has underscored the need for maritime cooperation between India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in this regard.
“Maritime security in the Indian Ocean will depend more and more on the ability of countries like India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh to work with each other, and partners like America, to uphold international norms like freedom of navigation,” said Manpreet Singh Anand, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian.
“You can plainly see how the security of the Indian Ocean is inextricably linked to the stability of the global economy,” Anand said in his address to the Pacific Council Members in Los Angeles on Friday.
He said the “stability inland” also depended on how well the above countries can combat piracy and trafficking of drugs, weapons, and people on the high seas.
Anand noted that South Asia had a tremendous growth potential as the region boasts more working-age people than anywhere else in the world with its economies growing at an average of over seven per cent.
Noting that over 250 million South Asians will move into cities in the next 15 years, creating strong demand for infrastructure and services, Anand said the World Bank estimates that the region will need about USD 2.5 trillion in infrastructure investment over the next ten years to reach its full economic potential.
“While the countries of South Asia are increasingly trading more around the globe, the region is still one of the least economically integrated in the world, with less than six per cent of its total trade and less than one per cent of its investment flows occurring from within the region,” he rued.
Anand said America’s efforts to build prosperity and stability in South Asia are not only about improving trade and connectivity, but also have very strong social and environmental components.
“With India, we have increased bilateral trade to over USD 100 billion a year, while launching dozens of programmes to promote women’s entrepreneurship and equitable access to healthcare, education, finance, and more,” he said.
Anand said countries of the region were taking steps to bilaterally reduce barriers to trade.
“With Sri Lanka, India is pursuing an Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement. India also has older trade agreements with Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan that reduced or eliminated tariffs,” he said.
“The Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal Motor Vehicles Agreement, or BBIN, has drastically reduced transit times between the four countries and will allow for the faster, cheaper movement of goods and people across borders,” Anand said.