WASHINGTON -  India ranked a dismal 143 in an annual index of economic freedom by a top American think tank , behind its several South Asian neighbours including Pakistan , as progress on market-oriented reforms has been “uneven”.

The Heritage Foundation in its Index of Economic Freedom report said despite India sustaining an average annual growth of about 7 percent over the past five years, growth is not deeply rooted in policies that preserve economic freedom .

Hong Kong, Singapore and New Zealand topped the index. Among South Asian countries, only Afghanistan (163) and Maldives (157) were ranked below India . Nepal (125), Sri Lanka (112), Pakistan (141), Bhutan (107), and Bangladesh (128) surpassed India in economic freedom .

Putting India in the category of “mostly un-free” economies, the conservative political think-tank said progress on market-oriented reforms has been “uneven”.

It said the state “maintains an extensive presence” in many areas through public-sector enterprises. “A restrictive and burdensome regulatory environment discourages the entrepreneurship that could provide broader private-sector growth,” the report added.

Also, India’s overall score of 52.6 points is 3.6 points less than that of last year, when India ranked 123rd. China with a score of 57.4 points – an increase of 5.4 points compared to previous year – was placed at 111 position.

The United States was ranked 17 with 75.1 points. The world average score of 60.9 is the highest recorded in the 23-year history of the index. 49 countries – the majority of which are developing countries, but also including countries such as Norway and Sweden – achieved their highest-ever index scores.