Washington, Feb 25: A top US official today said India's economy was growing fast and its growth rate was projected to be over 7.5 per cent this year. This had elevated India to one of the top five global powers.
Delivering the keynote address at the Heritage Foundation yesterday, on the eve of President Bush's historic trip to India and Pakistan, Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business and Agriculture Affairs Josette Shiner, said there were several areas where economic cooperation between India and the US could progress further. These include infrastructure, IT, telecom sector, energy and other knowledge industries such as pharmaceuticals and biotechnology.
President George Bush is scheduled to visit India and Pakistan next week and economists and corporate leaders in both these countries should seize this opportunity to reflect on the future economic aspect of the Indo-US relations. They should also move their respective governments to initiate the necessary reforms to take the bilateral ties to new levels of cooperation, he added.
Emphasising that economic ties in infrastructure sector can yield mutual benefits to both the countries, she said several other areas also need attention. India needs to create a more investor friendly environment in sectors such as transport.
However, arbitrary tax policies are counter-intuitive major investments, she said adding that India needs to remove basic infrastructure constrains, customs clearance delays and high duty structures which she felt were preventing meaningful trade.
On Pakistan the official said the national elections set for Pakistan next year will be an important test of the country's commitment to democratic reform. ''The government in Islamabad must ensure that these elections are open, free and fair.'' Pakistan has come a long way from its stagnant economic past, boasting the second fastest growing economy in Asia last year, Shiner said, crediting in part the ''excellent economic team'' assembled by President Pervez Musharraf.
''By fostering economic growth and development, we reduce the appeal of radical Islam and demonstrate American friendship and partnership with the Pakistani people,'' she said.