US keen on New Silk Road for trade, commerce

Aizawl, June 19 (IANS) The US expects better trade and economic ties between India and the Central and Southeast Asia by developing a New Silk Road, an American official said here.

"Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has recently highlighted that the US looks forward towards the setting up of the New Silk Road, where the northeast India plays an important role as the region connects India with neighbours in the east," Kolkata-based US Consul General Dean R. Thompson said.

While interacting with the students of Mizoram University Monday, Thompson said: "One of the most important elements in the US-India relation is the growing importance of eastern India, and its geographical importance is being increasingly recognised."

Clinton recently sought India's active role in accomplishing her ambitious goal of the New Silk Road linking South and Central Asia with Southeast Asia.

"Together, we must continue laying the groundwork for the long-term vision of a New Silk Road that connects markets, businesses and consumers from the Caspian to the Ganges and beyond," Clinton said in Washington last week.

Only 250 km out of the northeast's 5,000 km outer perimeter touches India. The remaining 4,750 km represents international boundaries with China, Myanmar, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal.

Thompson said that the US and Indian governments have created "Education USA Centres" in various parts of India to help get clear and accurate information about opportunities to study in the US and also offer individual counselling for interested persons.

He highlighted that education has become one of the main pillars in the bilateral strategic partnership between the two countries.

"There are currently more than 100,000 Indian students studying in the US. However, only 2,300 American students currently study in India. Hence, initiatives are being made such as the 'Passport to India' programme designed to bring more American students to study in India," he added.

"The Obama-Singh 21st Century Knowledge Initiative provides $10 million for increased university partnerships and junior faculty development, exchange visits of faculty, administrators, Indian and US students. Then there is the community college initiative programme, the summer institutes for scholars and professionals, the sports visitor programme, and so on," he said.

The consul general said that the US-India relationship rests on the firm foundation of common ideals and that the strategic dialogue between the two countries is grouped into five pillars.

These include strategic cooperation, energy and climate change, education and development, economics, trade and agriculture and science, technology, health and innovation.

Also the American government is frantically trying to reach out to the people of the northeast India with the music, history, art and culture of the US, he said.

The US consulate in Kolkata recently organised 'Taste of America Festival' in Agartala, first time in India's northeast.

The one-day festival highlighted services offered by the US consulate general in Kolkata for the residents of Tripura and other northeastern states.

It included a 'Spelling Bee' competition for school students, a knowledge of US quiz competition and debates.

The American officials said that there would also be seminars and counseling on higher education facilities in the US and advice on formalities for submitting visa applications.