The security of Indian Ocean is "inextricably" linked to the stability of global economy, the US has said and underscored the need for maritime cooperation between India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to uphold international norms such as the freedom of navigation. "Maritime security in the Indian Ocean will depend more and more on the ability of countries like India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh to work with each other, and partners like America, to uphold international norms like the freedom of navigation," said Manpreet Singh Anand, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia. The "stability inland" also depended on how well the above countries can combat piracy and trafficking of drugs, weapons, and people on the high seas, Anand told the Pacific Council Members here on Friday. He said South Asia has a tremendous growth potential as the region boasts more working-age people than anywhere in the world with its economies growing at an average of more than 7 per cent. "You can plainly see how the security of the Indian Ocean is inextricably linked to the stability of the global economy," said the Indian-origin diplomat. As over 250 million South Asians move into cities in the next 15 years, creating strong demands for infrastructure and services, Anand said the World Bank estimates that the region will need about USD 2.5 trillion in infrastructure investment over the next ten years to reach its full economic potential. "While the countries of South Asia are increasingly trading more around the globe, the region is still one of the least economically-integrated in the world, with less than six per cent of its total trade and less than one per cent of its investment flows occurring from within the region," he rued. He said US' efforts to build prosperity and stability in South Asia are not only about improving trade and connectivity but also have strong social and environmental components. "With India, we have increased bilateral trade to over USD 100 billion a year, while launching dozens of programmes to promote women's entrepreneurship and equitable access to healthcare, education, finance, and more," he said. Anand said the regional countries were taking steps to bilaterally reduce barriers to trade. "With Sri Lanka, India is pursuing an Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement. India also has older trade agreements with Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan that reduced or eliminated tariffs," he said. "The Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal Motor Vehicles Agreement, or BBIN, has drastically reduced transit times between the four countries and will allow for the faster, cheaper movement of goods and people across borders," Anand said.
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