"Since 2008, democratically elected leaders govern all South Asian countries," U.S. Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia Robert Blake said in recent testimony to the U.S. Congress. "This burgeoning, multi-ethnic, multi-religious region, anchored by the growing prosperity and global reach of India, plays an instrumental role in world affairs, international commerce, and global peace and security."
The South Asia region consists of India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Maldives, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and at 1.4 billion people, holds nearly a quarter of the world’s population. More than 50 percent of South Asians are under 25, and nearly three-quarters of them live on less than $2 per day.
"Mirroring India’s economic and political dynamism, the entire region is in the midst of a positive trajectory towards prosperity and peace," Assistant Secretary Blake said. "The United States aims to bolster this regional progress by promoting greater integration, which can build ties that will reinforce democratic institutions, build economies, and enhance security."
India and the United States share a commitment to pluralism, religious liberty, human rights, universal education, and the promotion of innovation and free enterprise. "Our mutual commitment to these freedoms animates our global strategic partnership," Assistant Secretary Blake said. "It provides us with the energy and the courage to build a better world together."
Bangladesh is a secular democracy with a vibrant and innovative civil society and a healthy economic growth. Sri Lanka is recovering from a devastating civil war and Nepal is working on its ongoing peace process. Maldives, a majority Muslim nation, made its peaceful transition to democracy in 2008, and Bhutan, a Himalayan Buddhist kingdom, also made a peaceful transition to parliamentary democracy in 2008.
Ensuring regional peace and stability will allow South Asia to reach its full potential. "Continued social and economic integration throughout South Asia has at its core India’s growing and emerging global leadership and the importance of improved ties between India and Pakistan," Assistant Secretary Blake concluded.
"The recent histories of Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, and Maldives show that they are joining India in consolidating democracy, on a path towards full human rights, and contributing to the peace and security of the larger world."