"When Prime Minister Modi invited the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif and the leaders of South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries to his inauguration ceremony, he demonstrated his firm commitment to strengthening India's ties with its immediate region," Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing.

"That's good news for India and greatly beneficial to global stability," she said.

India, Biswal said, has a chance to take its entire neighbourhood along, enhancing prosperity and peace by boosting trade and building connectivity throughout South Asia and the Bay of Bengal region.

"That India trades much more with Europe, United States and the Middle East than with its immediate South Asian neighbours is a global economic anomaly, one that India can help address by shaping a connectivity network between India, South Asia and the rest of the continent," Biswal said.

"United States welcomes the new government's efforts to strengthen SAARC and we were pleased to see Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj make her first official visit abroad to Bangladesh in late June," she said.

Vikram Singh, a former official of the Obama Administration, said Modi has taken positive steps so far in the conduct of international affairs, starting with his invitation to all India's neighbours, including Pakistan, to his inauguration.

"United States will be able to engage with Modi on regional issues not just on stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan but also on Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives," Singh said.

"We will be able to work with India on relations with countries from Myanmar to Japan to Australia. Modi is likely to seek a productive dynamic with China but on the campaign trail he showed that he will be willing to stand up to China by criticizing Beijing's expansionist tendencies," said Singh, who is currently vice president, National Security and International Policy Center for American Progress.

(Agencies)

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