NEW DELHI  - India on Monday reported exports slid by nearly 15 percent in July, the steepest dive in three years — hit by the long-running debt crisis gripping Europe and the stumbling US recovery.India’s merchandise exports fell by 14.8 percent to $22.4 billion in July from a year ago — the latest in a string of grim numbers to be announced by Asia’s third-largest economy.Reflecting a slowdown in domestic demand, imports declined too, slipping by 7.61 percent to $37.9 billion in July, leaving a monthly trade deficit of $15.4 billion, the trade ministry said in a statement. India’s economy has cooled rapidly with data last week showing growth in the financial quarter to June stuck at three-year lows of 5.5 percent — far below the nearly 10 percent expansion it logged during much of the last decade.“The sharp cooling in imports through the middle of 2012 reflects an economy that continues to grow well below potential,” said Glenn Levine, economist at Moody’s Analytics.During the April-July period of this fiscal year, India’s shipments shrank by five percent to $97.6 billion while imports slipped by 6.47 percent to $153.2 billion.The government has already warned it may be difficult for the country to reach its export target of $360 billion this year.Commerce Secretary S.R. Rao said the “days coming ahead are tough” with no signs of an upturn in demand for made-in-India goods in European or US markets.The last time India posted such a big monthly year-on-year fall in exports was in August 2009 when they slid 23.5 percent.Further underscoring India’s weakness, other data on Monday showed growth in the manufacturing sector slowed to a nine-month low in August.The Indian HSBC India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), a gauge of factory output, slipped to 52.8 in August from 52.9 in July as output growth decelerated and new orders eased on the back of a decline in export orders.But unlike China where the PMI showed manufacturing activity shrinking last month to 47.6, India’s reading still remained above the 50 level that indicates expansion. A reading below 50 points to contraction.