By Arun Kumar, Washington, April 17 IANS | 3 months ago

Calling India South Asia's growth engine, a US official wondered whether the new Indian government will make the reforms necessary to attract investment and capitalise on opportunities ahead.


"Those are the questions that India's voters are asking as they cast their ballots and those are the questions that we want to see answered," Nisha Desai Biswal, Washington's Indian-American point person for South Asia, said Wednesday.

"We know that India has the potential to exceed all of our expectations, and it has done so in the past," she said speaking on "US Foreign Policy in South Asia: A Vision for Prosperity and Security" at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

"But to do so we believe India's investment and tax policies must be designed to lure, not deter capital flows; timely regulatory approvals and contract enforcement must be embraced; and protection of intellectual property must be enforced," said Biswal, the assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian Affairs.

"The more integrated India is into global markets and into the economic architecture of Asia, the more India's economy will grow and benefit the entire global economic system," she suggested.

On its part, the US "is committed to growing the trade and investment ties between our two countries," Biswal said."We want to grow trade to $500 billion a year."

"And, there's no question that India's economic success is vital to achieving the strategic aims that both our leaders have laid out," she said pledging "to look forward, and not dwell on the past".

Suggesting South Asia's "economic engine" India "faces real vulnerabilities", Biswal noted: "India's leaders have targeted to spend $1 trillion dollars over five years in infrastructure investment to close the infrastructure gap that prevents real growth in the manufacturing sector."

"Yet it continues to have policies that inhibit foreign investment," she said. "India still ranks poorly amongst all countries as a hospitable place to invest and start a new business, ranked 134 out of 189 countries."

"So, without sugar-coating its challenges - a tough neighbourhood, tightening economic growth and the mounting impacts of pollution on public health - India, the world's largest democracy, must decide its own path to the future," Biswal said.

"Will it make the reforms necessary to attract investment? Will it capitalise on the opportunities that lie in front of it?" she asked.

"Those are the questions that India's voters are asking as they cast their ballots and those are the questions that we want to see answered," Biswal added.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

(Posted on 17-04-2014)