The United States supports an Indo-Pacific region comprised of nations that are independent, strong, and prosperous. The United States engages closely with Indo-Pacific partners to promote shared values and interests, including private sector-led growth and development, sound and sustainable infrastructure, expanded security cooperation, and democracy and good governance. South Asia is a crucial pillar of this vision.
The United States partnership with India, a fellow democracy of over 1.3 billion people that shares our vision for the Indo-Pacific region, is reaching new heights. We are deepening our relationship by increasing security and defense cooperation, growing trade and investment, and expanding our extensive people-to-people ties. Two-way bilateral goods and services trade with India totaled a record $146.1 billion in 2019, and the United States welcomed more than 200,000 Indian students in 2019, who contributed over $7 billion to the U.S. economy. The annual U.S.-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue co-led by the Secretaries of State and Defense demonstrates the importance of strengthening this strategic partnership.
We also advance the Indo-Pacific vision in close cooperation with other partners in the region. The U.S.-Bangladesh partnership is founded on strong economic ties and cooperation on security and counterterrorism, and we are working to support the strengthening of its democratic institutions. The United States commends Bangladesh for hosting over one million Rohingya. Since August 2017, the United States has provided $962 million in humanitarian assistance for programs inside Bangladesh; these programs provide support to host communities, as well as Rohingya refugees. In Sri Lanka, the United States is committed to advancing counter-terrorism and security cooperation; deepening economic ties; and advancing our shared interest in promoting justice, accountability, and reconciliation. With Maldives, we welcome a growing political, economic, and counterterrorism relationship as a democratic partner in the region. The United States continues to support economic resilience in Nepal through development and security cooperation. The United States welcomes further expansion of our close unofficial relationship with Bhutan as demonstrated by the 2019 visit of the Deputy Secretary of State. We also welcome the opportunity to participate in regional platforms, such as the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), as a way to demonstrate our wide-ranging commitment to the region.
The United States supports a sovereign, unified, and democratic Afghanistan at peace with itself and its neighbors and respectful of the human rights of all its citizens. The State Department and its partners in the U.S. government are working to ensure that Afghanistan is never again used as a base for terrorists to threaten the security of the United States or its allies. The signing of the U.S.-Taliban Agreement and U.S.-Afghanistan Joint Declaration paved the way for the launch of historic Afghanistan Peace Negotiations. Inclusive, Afghan-led, Afghan-owned negotiations over a political settlement and permanent and comprehensive ceasefire are Afghanistan’s best chance at ending 40 years of conflict.
The United States remains committed to Afghanistan’s long-term economic development and to supporting economic reforms, governmental transparency and accountability, and protection of the human rights of all Afghans, including women and children. At the 2020 Afghanistan Conference, the sixth quadrennial gathering of approximately 70 countries and international organizations to coordinate international development support for Afghanistan, the United States demonstrated our continued dedication to Afghanistan’s secure, stable, democratic, and self-reliant future through a one-year financial pledge of $300 million in civilian assistance. An amount of up to approximately $300 million is also available in the near term depending on our assessment of progress in the peace process. Future assistance beyond 2021 is planned at comparable levels provided there is consistent progress on transparency and accountability, as well as on the peace process, on the part of the Afghan government.
The United States and Pakistan benefit from cooperation on issues ranging from education to business, to counterterrorism and strategic stability. The United States and Pakistan share a vision for a peaceful, prosperous South Asia, which includes a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan. Resolving the Afghan conflict presents significant opportunities for Pakistan and the broader region. It also opens a path to a stronger U.S.-Pakistan relationship.
There is also much potential to forge new linkages between our two nations’ businesses, educational institutions, and civil society organizations. The U.S. government supports expanding bilateral commercial ties, which benefits businesses in both countries. We believe there is room to expand well beyond the current level of bilateral trade, helping Pakistan recover from COVID-19’s economic impact. We hope to also cooperate on further integrating women into the Pakistani economy by strengthening the U.S.-Pakistan Women’s Council, a public– private partnership, among other efforts.
The United States’ strategic interests in Central Asia include supporting the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of the five Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. In Central Asia, the United States works to increase opportunities for U.S. business and industry to develop trade and to encourage economic linkages to Afghanistan to foster peace and stability. Cooperative efforts with Central Asian partners prevent security threats to the United States homeland and interests globally. The United States’ aim is to foster a stable and prosperous Central Asia that is free to pursue political, economic, and security interests on its own terms, with partners of its choosing; a Central Asia that is connected to global markets and open to international investment; and, a Central Asia with strong, democratic institutions, rule of law, and respect for human rights.
The United States works through the multilateral C5+1 diplomatic platform to promote regional connectivity and cooperation among the five Central Asian states. Through enhanced economic, environment, and people-to-people ties, the countries of Central Asia support their own sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity. Within the C5+1, the United States cooperates on joint projects to address common challenges in security, economic connectivity, and the environment.
Bilaterally, the United States promotes fair and reciprocal trade and investment in Central Asia by advocating for improvements in the business climate of each country that provide a level playing field for U.S. businesses to compete, thereby contributing to the U.S. economy and jobs. U.S. advocacy seeks to overcome common challenges in Central Asia that include lack of economic diversification, corruption, weak rule of law, and unpredictable contract enforcement. Through robust educational programs, our embassies aim to increase economic opportunities for young workers, improve access to accurate information and the United States, and promote U.S. higher education to top students from across Central Asia.
Across Central Asia, the United States seeks to facilitate regional growth and trade, to incorporate Afghanistan into Central Asia’s markets, and to enhance regional connectivity from the South Caucasus to South Asia. To achieve these aims, the United States supports regional mechanisms like USTR’s U.S.-Central Asia Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, projects such as the Central Asia South Asia Electricity Transmission and Trade Project (CASA-1000), and USAID’s Central Asia Trade Forum.
Our security cooperation with Central Asia works to counter transnational threats such as terrorism and narcotics trafficking, provide secure borders, promote professionalization of security forces, and advance respect for rule of law and human rights. Central Asian states support stabilization efforts in Afghanistan and are key contributors to future peace and prosperity in Afghanistan and the region.
The South and Central Asian region has some of the world’s worst air pollution. In 2016, 17 of the 30 cities with the world’s poorest air quality were in South Asia. The World Bank notes that air pollution causes both higher health care costs and lost labor participation and income. Bureau efforts on air quality focus on protecting people, partnering with host governments to develop policies mindful of environmental stewardship and the importance of air quality, and promoting U.S. solutions, including clean technology and lessons learned from our own successes cleaning up air pollution.
SCA supports U.S. interests abroad by developing meaningful relationships between the American people and the publics of South and Central Asia, building strong partnerships, and sustaining dialogue through academic and professional exchanges, entrepreneurship initiatives, media capacity building, English language programming, women’s empowerment, and cultural preservation programs. Our initiatives include Partnership 2020, which encourages collaboration between U.S. and Indian universities for joint research and best practices. Helping American universities recruit top South and Central Asian students is also a net benefit to the U.S. economy and supports the development of civil society across the region. We endeavor to share accurate information about the United States and encourage links between U.S. experts and innovators, entrepreneurs, and change makers from the region to help them contribute to their communities. Nourishing the intellectual, entrepreneurial, and educational bonds that emerge through these efforts is equally important. Local and regional alumni networks expand such enduring engagement and provide opportunities for volunteerism and mentorship. The largest U.S. program alumni network in the world is in Pakistan with over 29,000 members.