Why South Asia Matters

Posted by Jeremy Beer
March 13, 2013
Commuters Walk at Railway Station in Mumbai, India

In the Asia-Pacific, economics -- alongside more traditional forms of national power -- are increasingly shaping the strategic landscape. As countries in the region use the growing size of their economies to project global power, the United States needs to ensure that its policies remain focused on an Asia-Pacific defined by economic openness, democratic governance, and political freedom. Because an Asia-Pacific rooted in peaceful and predictable patterns of behavior will ultimately bolster our own growth and security.

This was the central theme in testimony delivered by South and Central Asian Affairs Assistant Secretary Robert O. Blake, Jr. last week before a House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee. During his testimony, Blake outlined why South Asia is such a critical component of U.S. foreign policy, focusing on the Asia-Pacific as a single, geographically coherent space stretching from the west coast of the United States to the Indian subcontinent. Much of the history of the 21st century will be written in this broader Asia-Pacific region, projected to become home to over 5.2 billion people by 2050. And that history will have a profound impact on the people and the economy of the United States.

Of course, any discussion of South Asia has to start with India. India is one of our most trusted and valuable partners, and really the foundation upon which greater regional economic cooperation will be built. President Obama has called our relations with India "a defining partnership for the 21st century." Indeed, from our close people-to-people ties and burgeoning trade, to our shared defense exercises and clean energy partnerships, relations have never been stronger.

During his testimony, Blake highlighted how far India has come in the past 20 years, with a GDP 10 times what it was in 1993. What was then a closed economy is now the United States' 13th largest trading partner in goods. By 2025, India is projected to become the world's third largest economy.

Yet Blake also pointed out that India's growth will generate enormous resource demands, particularly in infrastructure. Current estimates suggest that 80 percent of the infrastructure required to sustain and support India in 2025 has yet to be built. We see this as an enormous opportunity to deepen our commercial partnership with India, working together with American companies to build the airports, power plants, water and sanitation systems, and fiber optic networks of India's future.

Simply put: American companies are open for business in India.

Nowhere are those opportunities more pronounced than along the emergent road, air, and sea links between India, Bangladesh, Burma, and the rapidly expanding economies of the Association of South East Asian Nations, or ASEAN.

In the past year alone, trade between India and the countries of Southeast Asia has increased by 37 percent. This emerging 'Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor' isn't just a boon for the region; it also provides American businesses with substantial new markets.

When looking at the future of this region, Blake told the Subcommittee we remain bullish, but also said we are clear-eyed about the challenges we face -- the threat of terrorism, regional rivalries, refugees, human trafficking, and the potentially catastrophic effects of global climate change.

The architecture of cooperation we are building together with the countries of the region is helping meet those challenges. And we continue to view South and South East Asia, including the Indian Ocean, as a crucial driver for America's economic growth and prosperity throughout the 21st century. Towards that end, we must continue building the regional and bilateral partnerships at the heart of a more stable, prosperous, and democratic Asia-Pacific, so that the United States, as well as this broader Asia-Pacific region, can continue to grow and prosper.



March 13, 2013

Lulu S. writes:

I think every country or region is important for one reason or another, be it Asia, Australia or even Africa, which though poor gets us diamonds.

Ashim C.
March 14, 2013

Ashim C. in India writes:

One must admire the consistency with which Mr. Robert Blake clings to his ideas about South Asia, Asia Pacifics & ASEAN, which he again expressed in house foreign affairs sub-committee. The reason may be South Asia in truly important and also as Assistant Secretary of State incharge South & Central Asia, Mr. Blake cannot say anything otherwise. The things South Asians - other than Pakistan, which really is a top notch strategic partners till it helps in withdrawal from AfPak region with some semblence of stability there unlike when Soviet Russia withdrew - is whether or not USA & also west Europe are treating SAARC properly like it treats ASEAN in it geopolitical and economic and trade policy formulations and engagements. SAARC is more democratic and has as strong elements power and potential as North Asia is. This builds a case for strong and active initiatives for integrating SAARC with ASEAN. It is not as if in last 10 years South Asia has not created opportunities for US. What has US Administration done to avail those opportunities? Forget everything, if only US business had invested in beach tourism in South Asia, not only US business generated revenue and jobs for US but also gained much favourable mileage. Sometimes one wonders what is one thing which makes the things the way they are between US & SAARC. Probably it has rooted in lack of need of South Asia to import huge US farm surplus, which North Asia has a compulsion to import. Possibly there should talks between Indian business for trade in pulses and oil seeds in stead of multibrand retail, civil nuclear cooperation, which is lot of blah blah.


Latest Stories