US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday announced an investment to the tune of USD 113 million in the Indo-Pacific region to boost energy projects, infrastructure, and maritime security.
“At the ASEAN Regional Forum on August 4, Secretary Pompeo announced the intent to provide nearly USD 300 million in security assistance to improve security relationships across the Indo-Pacific region. This assistance includes USD 290.5 million in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) to strengthen maritime security, humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HA/DR), and peacekeeping capabilities, and USD 8.5 million in International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INCLE) funds to counter transnational crime,” an official statement from the U.S. Department of State noted.
The decision came after Pompeo held a meeting with senior administration officials at the Indo-Pacific Business Forum in Washington DC ‘demonstrating a strong, whole-of-government US commitment to both economic and security engagement and assistance in the Indo-Pacific’.
The investment plan by the US will cover projects in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Mongolia, Nepal, the Pacific Islands, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and others.
To boost Maritime Security, the US, in collaboration with select partners, will make efforts to ‘develop coastal radar-enhanced maritime domain awareness (MDA) with manned and unmanned aerial systems, maritime platforms for rapid deployment of HA/DR efforts, and increased information sharing mechanisms to link security and defense institutions at the operational level’.
Moreover, it will also provide aid to their Southeast Asian allies in order to combat transnational threats and will provide them with training and support to improve MDA and patrol capacity.
“Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands: The United States will work with partners in Southeast Asia and the Pacific to help nations successfully monitor their Exclusive Economic Zones and address transnational threats. Assistance will focus on training and logistical support to improve MDA and patrol capacity, as well as professionalization and maintenance capacity to assist partners in developing defense and security institutions,” the statement read.
The White House in its statement also said that it will work with India and Sri Lanka, which are surrounded by the Bay of Bengal, ‘to enhance the capacity of civilian and military maritime actors in the Indian Ocean Region to improve the target areas of detection, information-sharing, and response to emerging threats’.
Under Humanitarian Assistance, the White House said that it will work towards ‘improving search and rescue capabilities, will develop disaster risk reduction strategies, and logistical support to provide short-term solutions in times of need’. The US believes that by undertaking such initiatives, they will be able to save lives and reduce economic consequences of such events on the regions.
It also lauded Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Fiji, and Nepal for sending scores of its troops for the United Nations peacekeeping missions.
“The Indo-Pacific countries are steady contributors to UN peacekeeping missions, with Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Fiji, and Nepal consistently among the top-ten troop-contributing countries. The United States will continue to work with partners in the Indo-Pacific to strengthen both regional and global peacekeeping capabilities and address critical mission shortfalls by focusing on the deployment of enabling capabilities,” the statement highlighted.
The US further highlighted issues such as illicit trafficking of people and narcotics, under which the most South Asian countries are reeling for the past few decades, and said it will strive to strengthen border security in order to curb such menaces.
“The United States will support regional efforts in South and Southeast Asia to counter transnational crime by strengthening border security to counter illicit trafficking of people, narcotics, and goods; expanding security sector and law enforcement cooperation with emerging democracies; promoting safe and efficient commerce; and strengthening the rule of law to counter corruption,” the statement concluded. (Outlook)