U.S. supports Indian efforts to bring South Asian region together: Richard Verma

U.S. Ambassador to India Richard R. Verma has said his country strongly supports Indian efforts to bring the South Asian region together.

He was speaking at the Indo-Asia Connectivity for Shared Prosperity conference.

Ambassador Verma said that with more than USD130 billion in annual trades with South Asia, the U.S. has a vital interest in a region which is prosperous and interconnected.

He said the U.S. is helping create new energy linkages, open up trade and transport corridors, and streamline customs procedures at border crossings through the Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor (IPEC).

“USAID’s work with SARI, the South Asia Regional Initiative, includes an energy integration project aimed at bolstering cross-border electricity trade and the development of a regional energy market,” Verma said.

He said Washington has also supported the initial feasibility study for the 500 MW energy link between India and Bangladesh, which is now operational and being expanded to 1000 MW.

Verma said that the USAID is funding exchanges between Indian and Burmese female entrepreneurs with the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), a prominent Indian NGO.

Verma said USAID also recently concluded a trade facilitation workshop in Sri Lanka which brought together regional leaders to discuss streamlining customs and border procedures.

“The premise behind these efforts is straightforward: the economic benefits of increased connectivity can generate the prosperity and people-to-people linkages necessary for strong partnerships based on shared values. This is an objective the United States strongly supports,” he said

The ambassador said that there’s also a strategic element as outlined in the January 2015 Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region, expanding U.S. engagement with India in the Asia Pacific is an important element of our bilateral partnership and is a natural complement to India’s “Act East” policy.

“The United States believes that regional partnerships centered on strong economic ties, people-to-people linkages, and a shared commitment to democracy and human rights are a force for good, not only in this region, but around the world” he noted.

Verma said he wanted to mention two areas of connectivity that probably don’t get enough attention.

“The first is virtual connectivity, by which I mean enhancing digital connections across the region. And second is strengthening the connectivity of shared values and ideas – can you have real connectivity without a common view of what is urgent, important or even objectionable?” he said.

Verma said digital transformation is expected to generate as much as USD 19 trillion in economic value over the next decade.

He said the “internet of things” will be the infrastructure of the information society and bridging the digital divide is instrumental to ensuring our citizens can take advantage of the new digital economy.

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