Washington: India, whose 90 per cent of the goods trade by volume is carried by sea, has a strong interest in guaranteeing unhindered freedom of navigation in the international waters, Obama Administration’s point man for South and Central Asia has said as he praised New Delhi’s efforts to combat piracy.
“Oceans are essential to India’s security and prosperity, as they are to ours. By volume, 90 per cent of the goods India trades are carried by sea,” said Robert Blake, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia.
“India therefore has a strong interest in guaranteeing unhindered freedom of navigation in international waters, the free flow of commerce, and the peaceful resolution of maritime disputes,” he said.
“But beyond its own economic benefit, India realises that the economic integration enabled by the improvements of connections across Asia, will lead to prosperity that benefits all nations,” Blake said in his address to the Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
“India’s growing naval capacity and modernisation have enabled its strong presence across the Indian and Pacific Oceans and further bolstered its role as a net security provider in the maritime domain,” he said.
“Already in the Western Indian Ocean region, New Delhi is demonstrating its growing maritime capabilities with a robust counter-piracy approach that serves common regional interests and many of their own nationals held hostage in Somalia,” he said.
As a founding member of the international Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, India has shown great leadership in the efforts to confront and combat piracy stemming from Somalia which threatens trade flows to and from Asia, Blake said.
With its strong democratic institutions, unprecedented demographic growth, economic promise and rising military capabilities, India is poised to play a critical leadership role both regionally and globally, he said.
“With rising power comes greater global responsibility and in moving beyond its tradition of non-alignment, India has established its credentials as a responsible player in the global arena.
“We are committed to working together, along with others in the region, toward the evolution of an open, balanced, and inclusive architecture,” the top Obama Administration official said.
Noting that India has long been an integral member of the Asia-Pacific region, sharing cultural and historical ties that have laid the foundation for its expanded engagement of today, Blake said with its “Look East” Policy, initiated in 1991, India began to work more closely with its Asian partners to engage the rest of the world, reflecting the belief that India’s future and economic interests are best served by greater integration with East and Southeast Asia.
“Today, India is forging closer and deeper economic ties with its eastern neighbours by expanding regional markets, and increasing both investments and industrial development from Burma to the Philippines,” he said.
“India is also seeking greater regional security and military cooperation with its neighbours through more intensive engagement with ASEAN and other near neighbours.
“This week, in fact, India and China held their annual counterterrorism dialogue and focused on pan-Islamic extremism in the backdrop of Afghanistan’s transition. Such interaction evinces Beijing and Delhi’s interest in coordinating to work together for stability in Kabul in 2014 and beyond,” he noted.
Noting that the emerging Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor is a boon for the region and for the United States, he said linkages and infrastructure investments between the rapidly expanding economies of South Asia and those of Southeast Asia are a critical component to integrating regional markets to both accelerate economic development and strengthen regional stability, while helping unlock and expand markets for American goods and services.
“An India that is well-integrated into the Asia’s economic architecture, that pursues open market policies, and that has diverse and broad-based economic relationships across the East Asia region is not only good for India, but is good for the United States and the Asia-Pacific region as a whole,” Blake said.