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Strategic partnership with India a US priority

Strategic partnership with India will remain among top US foreign policy priorities as South Asia plays an instrumental role in world affairs, a senior official has said.

Washington: Strategic partnership with India will remain among top US foreign policy priorities as South Asia, anchored by the growing prosperity and global reach of India, plays an instrumental role in world affairs, a senior official has said.

"The United States and India enjoy a truly global strategic partnership now, thanks to President (Barack) Obama`s recent visit in November of 2010," Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Robert Blake told a subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs panel Tuesday.

As Obama "told the Indian Parliament last year, with India assuming its rightful place in the world, we have an historic opportunity to make this relationship between our countries a defining partnership for the century ahead," he said.

"The strategic partnership with India will remain among our top foreign policy priorities," Blake said at a hearing on "Assessing US Foreign Policy Priorities and Needs Amidst Economic Challenges in South Asia."

Noting that India`s 8 percent growth rate makes it the world`s second-fastest-growing major economy today, he said, India`s also among the fastest-growing sources of investment into the United States.

In the last decade, investment capital coming from India to the United States grew at an annualized rate of 53 percent, reaching $4.4 billion in 2009, he said.

Noting that since 2008, democratically elected leaders govern all South Asian countries, Blake said that it was "an indication that India`s democracy has served as a useful model in the region."

Nisha Desai Biswal, Indian-American assistant administrator for Asia at the US Agency for International Development (USAID) said US investments in South Asia have also benefited the American people.

For example, in the last decade, US exports to India have quadrupled and Indian investment in the United States has grown significantly, she said.

The US has embarked on a strategic partnership with the government of India to harness the capabilities of both countries in addressing poverty and hunger in India as well as tackling these challenges globally, she said

Republican sub-committee chairman Steve Chabot said "the fact remains that Pakistani and US strategic interests diverge on certain issues-especially those concerning Islamist terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Toiba, which the Pakistani ISI continues to view as a strategic asset vis-a-vis India."

The top democrat on the panel Gary Ackerman also doubted "the ISI will ever stop working with us during the day and going to see their not-so-secret friends in the Lashkar-e-Toiba or Jaish-e Mohammed and other terrorist groups at night."

Describing India as "the brightest light in South Asia`s constellation and the strategic centre of gravity for the region," he said as the world`s largest democracy India is a natural partner for the United States.

But United States, he said has failed India in that it has not used "our diplomatic leadership and agenda to setting capability to focus global attention to the threat to India from Pakistan-based terrorists, such as Lashkar-e-Toiba, that continue to raise money from all over the world."


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