Ahead of India visit, Joe Biden welcomes India's emergence in SE Asia and beyond

UU.S Vice President Joe Biden (IE Photo)
Ahead of his maiden visit to India, Vice President Joe Biden today said the US welcomes and encourages India's emergence as a force for security and growth in Southeast Asia and beyond, as he outlined America's efforts to embrace Asia and broaden global prosperity.

"One of the reasons why President (Barack) Obama called our relations with India, quote, 'a defining partnership of the century ahead' is that India is increasingly looking east as a force for security and growth in Southeast Asia and beyond," the 70-year-old Vice President said.

Noting that "20, even 10 years ago, some might have suggested that India be left out of the discussions about the Asia-Pacific", Biden said this is not the case now.

"To us, that's welcome news. We encourage it," he told audience at the prestigious George Washington University here while speaking on the 'US policy toward the Asia-Pacific region and India's growing role in the region'.

"We welcome India's engagement in the region, and we welcome its efforts to develop new trade and transportation links by land and by sea in the area," he said

Biden is scheduled to leave for India and Singapore today. He would travel to New Delhi and Mumbai during which he is expected to meet the top Indian leaderships, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

"We're engaging directly with India, as it makes some fundamental choices about its own economic future," Biden said here ahead of his India trip, which is the first by an American Vice President in more than half a century.

Biden said the US was reaching out to emerging economies like China and India - neither of which are part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which would encompass 40 per cent of the world's economy.

"We firmly believe this (trade pact) will be a strong incentive for other nations to raise their standards as well," he said, referring to a huge trans-Pacific trade deal.

Biden reiterated the commitment to "rebalance" toward Asia, including on the economic front.

Biden also welcomed India's decision to liberalised FDI limits in certain key sectors, including telecom and defence.

"Just this week India announced that it will relax caps on foreign direct investment in certain sectors. We still have a lot of work to do on a wide range of issues, including the civil-nuclear cooperation, bilateral investment treaty, policies protecting innovation," Biden said.

"There's a lot of work to do. But we believe going with an open mind and listening as well as making our case, we believe it can be done," the Vice President said, indicating that despite the recent decisions by India to increase FDI in certain sectors, the American concerns with regard to some of the key issues still remain.

"In the last 13 years we've increased fivefold our bilateral trade, reaching nearly a hundred billion dollars. But if you look at it from a distance, an uninformed person, looking at it from a distance, there is no reason that if our countries make the right choices, trade cannot grow fivefold or more," he said.

Biden will also visit Singapore, a country of five million people who has become the 17th largest economy in the world.

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