The US and South Asia are Trying to Grow Closer

US nominee for S.Asia post sees strong Indian economy

An Indian vendor arranges artificial flowers at his roadside stall for sale in Siliguri on September 10, 2013.

The nominee to be the top US diplomat for South Asia said recently that India’s economy remained strong despite recent concerns, and that further liberalization would strengthen relations.

Nisha Desai Biswal, President Barack Obama’s nominee to be assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, pledged to keep up a two-decade push to build ties between India and the United States.

“Despite the concerns that are currently in place, I think the fundamentals of the Indian economy are strong and sound,” Biswal told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in her confirmation hearing.

“India needs to, perhaps, take a more aggressive stance on opening and liberalizing its economy, and that will enable further partnership between the United States and India on the economic front,” she said.

India, once billed as a driver of global growth, has seen a flurry of economic concerns in recent weeks as it faces a giant current account gap, a fiscal deficit, stubborn inflation and a weak currency.

But many US business leaders, the initial cheerleaders for the warmer relationship, have grown critical of what they see as India’s slow pace of economic reforms, particularly on implementation of a landmark nuclear cooperation agreement.

Biswal would be the first American of South Asian descent to hold the top diplomatic position for the region.

Such appointments, which a few decades ago would have raised questions about divided loyalties, now draw little controversy with officials and lawmakers eager for US diplomats to showcase the country’s diversity.

Obama similarly appointed Chinese American Gary Locke as ambassador to Beijing and Korean American Sung Kim as ambassador in Seoul.