Tillerson seeks stronger ties with India, chides China

Cheryl Sanders
October 22, 2017

USA secretary of state Rex Tillerson's visit to India is expected to further cement ties between India and the U.S. with discussions expected to revolve around closer cooperation amid the growing regional influence of China and the worsening security situation in Afghanistan.

The report quoted a Pakistani official, who remains in contact with Washington, as saying that in its desperation to stop Washington from coming closer to New Delhi, Islamabad has virtually accepted all the demands by the United States.

The statement issued by MEA stated, "Secretary Tillerson has made a significant policy statement on India-US relations and its future".

He said the United States and India shared goals of security, free navigation, free trade and an worldwide rules-based order which is increasingly under strain.

We appreciate Tillerson's positive evaluation of the relationship and share his optimism about its future directions, it added.

Tillerson is scheduled to arrive in New Delhi next week, where he will meet with senior Indian leaders to discuss further strengthening of strategic partnership between India and the USA and collaboration on security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.

Officials told The Hindu that Mr. Tillerson and Ms. Swaraj will discuss pending bilateral issues on Wednesday as well, including enhancing trade, the U.S.'s pitch to sell India UAV drones, F-16s and F-18s, and the outstanding decisions on the "foundational agreements" in defence.

"The Secretary's visit to India will advance the ambitious agenda laid out by President Trump and Prime Minister Modi during the Prime Minister's visit to the White House in June", she said. "This also gives an opportunity for the two sides to exchange notes on Indo Pacific developments ahead of Trump's visit to the region".

Lately, the US-Pakistan relationship has become kinetic, thanks to the Pakistani military's rescue of a Canadian-American couple held hostage for five years in the lawless Pakistan-Afghan border region, and, importantly, Islamabad's initiative to organize a meeting of the moribund Quadrilateral Consultative Group (comprising US, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan) on October 16 in Muscat.

Tillerson also signaled that the US will be leaning on India to offset China's influence and proposed a new regional security architecture with the US, Japan, India and Australia as its main pillars.

Tillerson did not directly address the stand-off but vowed that Washington "won't shrink from China's challenges to the rules-based order, or where China subverts the sovereignty of neighbouring countries".

Both India and China have benefited from that order, but Tillerson said India had done so while respecting the rules and norms, while China had "at times" undermined them.

Tillerson also took the opportunity to compare China with its giant neighbour and criticised Beijing for its "provocative actions" in the South China Sea.

Asia expert Michael Kugelman said that while Tillerson's focus on defense and security cooperation was predictable, he "was also struck how he spoke in great detail, and at the very beginning of the speech, about economic partnership".

Other reports by iNewsToday