US to expand navy-to-navy relationship with Sri Lanka

The United States says it hopes to expand the navy-to-navy relationship with Sri Lanka.

US Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice G. Wells told delegates at the Indo-Pacific Regional Architecture Indian Ocean Conference 2017 in Colombo today that Sri Lanka and the US will hold the first-ever naval exercise in October.

“We are also expanding our navy-to-navy relationship with Sri Lanka, with our first-ever naval exercise set for October,” she said.

She reaffirmed the long-standing facet of U.S. foreign policy: that the United States is – and will continue to be – an Indo-Pacific power.

“For more than seven decades, we have embraced the responsibilities this distinction requires across this vast expanse, from the shores of East Africa to the western coast of the Americas.  This will not change in the decades to come,” she added.

Wells said if South and Southeast Asia reduced non-tariff barriers by 50 percent – an ambitious but attainable goal – increased intra-region trade would net $568 billion in increased GDP by 2030.

“Already, American companies operate across the region, supplying everything from bottled drinks to airplane parts.  In India alone, over 600 American companies have contributed to a 500 percent increase in FDI over the past two years.  We are partnering with South Asian countries to develop legal and regulatory regimes that encourage transparent FDI, build resilient energy infrastructure, and connect budding entrepreneurs with the resources they need to develop their ideas.  As President Trump and Prime Minister Modi underscored during their June summit, both India and the United States are committed to bolstering regional economic connectivity through transparent infrastructure development and responsible debt financing practices,” she added.

She also commended the progress in BIMSTEC and hopes agreements on electricity grid connectivity and transport can be finalized before the next BIMSTEC Summit.

“While the region offers unprecedented opportunity, it is also confronting a myriad of security challenges, including terrorism, transnational crime, trafficking-in-persons, and illicit drugs,” she added.

Wells noted that to combat these challenges, the United States has sought to improve intelligence-sharing among regional partners and improve capacity-building in areas like community policing, counter-narcotics, aviation security, and forensics analysis. (Colombo Gazette)


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