`US encouraged by positive steps by India, Pak`

A top Obama administration official observed that the US and India continue to advance a "fundamentally" strong partnership.

Washington: Observing that the US and India continue to advance a "fundamentally" strong partnership and that American defence sales of about USD nine billion is in the pipeline, a top Obama administration official on Wednesday said that Washington is encouraged by the efforts of New Delhi and Islamabad to normalise their bilateral trade ties.

"In South Asia, the United States is extremely encouraged by the positive recent steps taken by the Governments of India and Pakistan to normalise trade and commercial ties," Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake told lawmakers at a Congressional hearing.

"This process of normalisation in both directions, including the eventual extension of Most Favoured Nation status by Pakistan and the reduction of non-tariff barriers by India, could lead to at least a USD 10 billion increase in trade, not to mention expanded economic opportunity and stability for this entire nation," Blake said in his prepared testimony.

Testifying before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Sub Committee on the Middle East and South Asia, Blake said India and the US continue to advance a fundamentally strong partnership, with the expansion of people-to-people ties supplementing the depth and breadth of their strategic bilateral endeavours.

Anticipating that the bilateral goods and services trade will surge beyond USD 100 billion - quadruple since 2000 - Blake said that the November 2009 India visit by President Barack Obama in which he announced deals worth over USD 14.9 billion, supporting approximately 53,670 jobs, clearly set a benchmark for the current flow of commerce and for exponential growth in Foreign Direct Investment from India to the US.

This was highlighted again during the recent India visit of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Blake said the security relationship between the two countries have hit an all-time high with approximately USD nine billion in US defence sales to India with additional sales in pipeline.

The Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia told lawmakers that India and the US share the same goal of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

"India shares our goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and to that end India has recently taken important steps to reduce imports of crude oil from Iran. We continue to work with India developing alternative sources of supply to support India`s substantial energy needs," he said.

In his remarks, Congressman Steve Chabot, chairman of the Sub-Committee, said that though the India-US relationship has come a long way in the past 20 years, but the historic civil nuclear deal has not been implemented.