India says it is looking forward to a visit by US secretary of state Rex Tillerson to New Delhi next week to further strengthen a partnership based on a shared commitment to a rule-based international order. External affairs ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar welcomed a recent statement by Tillerson calling for an expansion of strategic ties.
“We appreciate his positive evaluation of the relationship and share his optimism about its future directions,” Kumar said. In an address at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank on October 18th, Tillerson has said the world needs the U.S. and India to have a strong partnership as he pointedly criticized China, which he accused of challenging international norms needed for global stability.
He said the United States and India shared goals of security, free navigation, free trade and an international rules-based order which is increasingly under strain.
Tillerson’s remarks come as a boost to India at a time when its ties with China have suffered a setback following a recent border standoff. Declaring, “We share a vision of the future,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has unveiled a centennial roadmap marking a “profound transformation” in United States-India cooperation “in defense of a rules-based order” with New Delhi “fully embracing its potential as a leading player in the international security arena.”
The Secretary pointed to what he considered a “more profound transformation that’s taking place, one that will have far-reaching implications for the next 100 years: The United States and India are increasingly global partners with growing strategic convergence.”
“Our nations are two bookends of stability – on either side of the globe – standing for greater security and prosperity for our citizens and people around the world,” he said. “President (Donald) Trump and Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi are committed, more than any other leaders before them, to building an ambitious partnership that benefits not only our two great democracies, but other sovereign nations working toward greater peace and stability,” he said.
The speech gave form and substance to the administration’s policy towards India and not just South Asia, but the broader Indo-Pacific region stretching from the vulnerable western flank of the U.S. It touched on a wide range of areas of cooperation ranging from military and defense to economics and trade, and from promotion of democracy to freedom of navigation.
“Tillerson’s speech was one of the most thoughtful and forward leaning speeches from this administration,” asserted Jeff M. Smith, research fellow on South Asia at The Heritage Foundation. The core of the cooperation between the U.S. and India and New Delhi’s enhanced role that Tillerson outlined lies in the Indo-Pacific region where the “world’s center of gravity is shifting” — an area where the Washington and its allies confront China, which he said “subverts the sovereignty of neighboring countries and disadvantages the U.S. and our friends.”
In effect, President Donald Trump’s point-man for foreign policy, just dramatically ratcheted up U.S. support for India’s role in the Indo-Pacific region vis-a-vis Beijing, delivering a clear message of preference for the democracy just as the Chinese Communist Party Congress was getting underway in Beijing, and days before Trump’ was scheduled to visit China.
India, Tillerson said in no uncertain terms, weighed heavier on the scale of strategic security and economic cooperation in Asia. “We’ll never have the same relationship with China, a nondemocratic society, that we have with India,” asserted Tillerson during questions and answers after a speech. Tillerson outlined the game-plan for an Indo-Pacific region where Washington was already engaged with India and Japan, and hopes to rope in Australia to make a quartet countering China’s aggressive stance in the South China Sea.
“We need to collaborate with India to ensure that the Indo-Pacific is increasingly a place of peace, stability, and growing prosperity – so that it does not become a region of disorder, conflict, and predatory economics,” clearly pointing at China.
“The emerging Delhi-Washington strategic partnership stands upon a shared commitment upholding the rule of law, freedom of navigation, universal values, and free trade,” he said, asserting further that, “Our nations are two bookends of stability – on either side of the globe – standing for greater security and prosperity for our citizens and people around the world.” Experts see this as the clearest statement of U.S. objectives vis-a-vis Asia and India, coming from this or previous administrations.