With an eye on countering increasing Chinese influence in key South Asian countries, the Trump administration has sought $30 million for what it has described as "Bay of Bengal" security initiative to provide foreign military financing to Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and the Maldives.
This is in addition to the $64 million already announced by the Trump administration for regional activities to support infrastructure growth and connectivity.
"We request that Congress support the department's new security cooperation programme in South Asia, the Bay of Bengal Initiative, with $30 million in foreign military financing that will build maritime and border security capacity for Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Maldives," Alice G Wells Senior State Department Official for South and Central Asian Affairs has told House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee for Asia, the Pacific and Nonproliferation in a prepared statement on Wednesday.
The sub-committee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing "US Interests in South Asia and the FY 2020 Budget" on Thursday.
"We also request $ 64 million for regional activities to support raising infrastructure standards, supporting regional energy and digital connectivity, and bolstering cyber security," she said in her prepared remarks submitted to the Congressional sub-committee.
The Department continues to explore options for providing additional resources to support the Indo-Pacific Strategy in line with this request, and if available it intends to return to Congress to discuss them, she said.
With the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act, she said, the Trump administration stands together with Congress by signalling to the region that America, itself an Indo-Pacific nation, is committed to promoting mutual prosperity.
In the Indo-Pacific, the Trump administration is committed to ensuring a rules-based order, with free and open commerce, freedom of navigation, democracy, and the peaceful resolution of disputes, Wells said.
These principles have helped to improve living standards for half of the world''s population living in the Indo-Pacific region, and they remain critical for the region''s long-term future, she said.
Seventy per cent of global commerce passes through the oceans of the Indo-Pacific, and the US will protect its seas and skies through our diplomatic engagement, development efforts, and security cooperation, she noted.
At the same time, the US, alongside India, Japan, Australia, and other trusted allies and partners, will support the political and economic autonomy of Indo-Pacific countries to ensure they can chart their own path to freedom and prosperity, as satellites to none, she told the lawmakers.
"We cannot allow China, or any other country, to subvert our partners through unsustainable infrastructure projects that push economies into unsustainable debt, or by contributing to an erosion of transparency and democratic norms," Wells said in her prepared remarks.
She told lawmakers that the Maldives is testament to the power of a free, open and rules-based Indo-Pacific region.
"Maldives is testament to the power of a free, open and rules-based Indo Pacific region," Wells said.