Tillerson wants deeper US-India relationship to tackle growing Chinese influence

Tillerson will visit India next week and is expected to visit Islamabad later.

US State Secretary Rex Tillerson said the US wants to deepen the cooperation with India to tackle the growing Chinese influence in Asia. He termed India as a “partner” in a “strategic relationship.   Tillerson’s statement came ahead of his India visit next week.

Calling China “a non-democratic society,” he added that the US would never have the same relationship with the country.

“The United States seeks constructive relations with China, but we will not shrink from China’s challenges to the rules-based order and where China subverts the sovereignty of neighboring countries and disadvantages the US and our friends,” Tillerson said while at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington.

“India and the United States should be in the business of equipping other countries to defend their sovereignty, build greater connectivity, and have a louder voice in a regional architecture that promotes their interests and develops their economies,” Tillerson added. He also stated that the US had started considering ways to tackle Chinese infrastructure financing in Asia.

Citing China’s actions in the South China Sea, Tillerson said that the country challenged “the international law and norms that the United States and India both stand for”. “China, while rising alongside India, has done so less responsibly, at times undermining the international, rules-based order,” he added.

In another comment that is likely to provoke China, the US State Secretary said they are thinking of inviting others, including Australia, to join U.S.-India-Japan security cooperation, an alliance opposed by China.

Tillerson’s statement came on the same day when Chinese President Xi Jinping said at the Chinese Communist Party congress that they were looking forward to playing a crucial role in world affairs. Jinping said that China “has become a great power in the world” and entered a “new era” where it should “take center stage in the world.”

Apart from China, the statements of Tillerson will upset Pakistan that was the main ally of the US for decades. The US has started pressurizing Pakistan to take strong action against terrorist havens in their land. The US pressure on Pakistan is likely to increase as part of the South Asia strategy unveiled in August.

Tillerson will visit India next week and is expected to visit Islamabad to implement the South Asia strategy of President Donald Trump.

“We are breaking from the status quo on US-Pakistan relations and the Secretary by going to Pakistan will be implementing the president’s strategy,” a State Department official told reporters yesterday after Tillerson delivered a major India-policy speech.

“America’s relationship with India does not come at the expense of Pakistan or vice versa. The things that the US can do to help alleviate some of the tensions on Pakistan’s borders around Afghanistan and in India,” the official said.

https://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2017/10/274913.htm

Here is the full text of Tillerson’s speech.

Well, thank you so much, John, and it is a real pleasure to be back in the building. And I was asking John if the building was meeting all the expectations that we had when this project was undertaken, and I see so many faces in the room that were a big part of bringing this to a reality. I think he told me there’s four simultaneous events going on today, and I said, “Perfect. That’s exactly what we had in mind.”

So I also want to thank many of you in the room for the 11 years, great years I had serving on the board of trustees here, and your mentorship of me. And I learned so much during the time I was here in those engagements. And I thank John for his friendship. He was a dear friend throughout that time. And it really has been important to my ability to do what I’ve been asked to do to serve the country. So again, it is a real pleasure to be here, and thankful for the opportunity to be back in this building.

So first, let me wish everyone a happy Diwali to all our friends in the United States, in India, around the world who are celebrating the Festival of Lights. Generally, fireworks accompany that. I don’t need any fireworks; I’m getting too many fireworks around me already. (Laughter.) So we’ll forgo the fireworks.

My relationship with India dates back to about 1998, so almost 20 years now, when I began working on issues related to India’s energy security. And I’ve had many trips to the country, obviously, over those many years. And it was a real privilege to do business with the Indian counterparts then, and it’s been a great honor this year to work with the Indian leaders as Secretary of State. And I do look forward to returning to Delhi next week for the first time in my official capacity. This visit could not come at a more promising time for U.S.-Indian relations and the U.S.-India partnership.

As many of you know, this year marks the 70th anniversary of relations between our two countries. When President Truman welcomed then-Prime Minister Nehru on his visit to Washington, he said, and I quote, “Destiny willed that our country should have been discovered in the search for a new route to yours.” I hope your visit, too, will be in a sense of discovery of the United States of America.

The Pacific and the Indian Oceans have linked our nations for centuries. Francis Scott Key wrote what would become our national anthem while sitting aboard the HMS Minden, a ship that was built in India.

As we look to the next 100 years, it is vital that the Indo-Pacific, a region so central to our shared history, continue to be free and open, and that’s really the theme of my remarks to you this morning.

President Trump and Prime Minister 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.

Prime Minister Modi’s visit in June highlighted the many areas of cooperation that are already underway in this new area of our strategic relationship.

Our defense ties are growing. We are coordinating our counterterrorism efforts more than ever before. And earlier this month, a shipment of American crude oil arrived in India, a tangible illustration of our expanding energy cooperation. The Trump administration is determined to dramatically deepen ways for the United States and India to further this partnership.

For us today, it’s plain to see why this matters. India represents the world’s largest democracy. The driving force of our close relationship rests in the ties between our peoples – our citizens, business leaders, and our scientists.

Nearly 1.2 million American visitors traveled to India last year. More than 166,000 Indian students are studying in the United States. And nearly 4 million Indian Americans call the United States home, contributing to their communities as doctors, engineers, and innovators, and proudly serving their country in uniform.

As our economies grow closer, we find more opportunities for prosperity for our people. More than 600 American companies operate in India. U.S. foreign direct investment has jumped by 500 percent in the past two years alone. And last year, our bilateral trade hit a record of roughly $115 billion, a number we plan to increase.

Together, we have built a sturdy foundation of economic cooperation as we look for more avenues of expansion. The announcement of the first Global Entrepreneurship Summit ever to be hosted in South Asia, to take place in Hyderabad next month, is a clear example of how President Trump and Prime Minister Modi are promoting innovation, expanding job opportunities, and finding new ways to strengthen both of our economies.

When our militaries conduct joint exercises, we send a powerful message as to our commitment to protecting the global commons and defending our people. This year’s Malabar exercise was our most complex to date. The largest vessels from American, Indian, and Japanese navies demonstrated their power together in the Indian Ocean for the first time, setting a clear example of the combined strength of the three Indo-Pacific democracies. We hope to add others in coming years.

In keeping with India’s status as a Major Defense Partner – a status overwhelmingly endorsed last year by the U.S. Congress – and our mutual interest in expanding maritime cooperation, the Trump administration has offered a menu of defense options for India’s consideration, including the Guardian UAV. We value the role India can play in global security and stability and are prepared to ensure they have even greater capabilities.

And over the past decade, our counterterrorism cooperation has expanded significantly. Thousands of Indian security personnel have trained with American counterparts to enhance their capacity. The United States and India are cross-screening known and suspected terrorists, and later this year we will convene a new dialogue on terrorist designations.

In July, I signed the designation of Hizbul Mujahideen as a Foreign Terrorist Organization because the United States and India stand shoulder-to-shoulder against terrorism. States that use terror as an instrument of policy will only see their international reputation and standing diminish. It is the obligation, not the choice, of every civilized nation to combat the scourge of terrorism. The United States and India are leading this effort in that region.

But another 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.

Indians and Americans don’t just share an affinity for democracy. We share a vision of the future.

The emerging Delhi-Washington strategic partnership stands upon a shared commitment upholding the rule of law, freedom of navigation, universal values, and free trade. 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.

The challenges and dangers we face are substantial. The scourge of terrorism and the disorder sown by cyber attacks threaten peace everywhere. North Korea’s nuclear weapons tests and ballistic missiles pose a clear and imminent threat to the security of the United States, our Asian allies, and all other nations.

And the very international order that has benefited India’s rise – and that of many others – is increasingly under strain.

China, while rising alongside India, has done so less responsibly, at times undermining the international, rules-based order even as countries like India operate within a framework that protects other nations’ sovereignty.

China’s provocative actions in the South China Sea directly challenge the international law and norms that the United States and India both stand for.

The United States seeks constructive relations with China, but we will not shrink from China’s challenges to the rules-based order and where China subverts the sovereignty of neighboring countries and disadvantages the U.S. and our friends.

In this period of uncertainty and somewhat angst, India needs a reliable partner on the world stage. I want to make clear: with our shared values and vision for global stability, peace, and prosperity, the United States is that partner.

And with India’s youth, its optimism, its powerful democratic example, and its increasing stature on the world stage, it makes perfect sense that the United States – at this time – should seek to build on the strong foundation of our years of cooperation with India. It is indeed time to double down on a democratic partner that is still rising – and rising responsibly – for the next 100 years.

But above all, the world – and the Indo-Pacific in particular – needs the United States and India to have a strong partnership.

India and the United States must, as the Indian saying goes, “do the needful.” (Laughter.)

Our two countries can be the voice the world needs to be, standing firm in defense of a rules-based order to promote sovereign countries’ unhindered access to the planet’s shared spaces, be they on land, at sea, or in cyberspace.

In particular, India and the United States must foster greater prosperity and security with the aim of a free and open Indo-Pacific.

The Indo-Pacific – including the entire Indian Ocean, the Western Pacific, and the nations that surround them – will be the most consequential part of the globe in the 21st century.

Home to more than three billion people, this region is the focal point of the world’s energy and trade routes. Forty percent of the world’s oil supply crisscrosses the Indian Ocean every day – through critical points of transit like the Straits of Malacca and Hormuz. And with emerging economies in Africa and the fastest growing economy and middle class in India, whole economies are changing to account for this global shift in market share. Asia’s share of global GDP is expected to surpass 50 percent by the middle of this century.

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.

The world’s center of gravity is shifting to the heart of the Indo-Pacific. The U.S. and India – with our shared goals of peace, security, freedom of navigation, and a free and open architecture – must serve as the eastern and western beacons of the Indo-Pacific. As the port and starboard lights between which the region can reach its greatest and best potential.

First, we must grow with an eye to greater prosperity for our peoples and those throughout the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

By the year 2050, India may boast the second largest economy in the world. India’s population – with a median age of 25 – is expected to surpass that of China’s within the next decade. Getting our economic partnership right is critical.

Economic growth flows from innovative ideas. Fortunately, there are no two countries that encourage innovation better than the United States and India. The exchange of technologies and ideas between Bangalore and Silicon Valley is changing the world.

Prosperity in the 21st century and beyond will depend on nimble problem solving that harnesses the power of markets and emerging innovations in the Indo-Pacific. This is where the United States and India have a tremendous competitive advantage.

Our open societies generate high-quality ideas at the speed of free thought. Helping regional partners establish similar systems will deliver solutions to 21st century problems.

For that to happen, greater regional connectivity is essential.

From Silk Routes to Grand Trunk Roads, South Asia was for millennia a region bound together by the exchange of goods, people, and ideas.

But today it is one of the least economically integrated regions in the world; intra-regional trade has languished – sitting at around 4 or 5 percent of total trade.

Compare that with ASEAN, where intra-regional trade stands at 25% of total trade.

The World Bank estimates that with barriers removed and streamlined customs procedures, intra-regional trade in South Asia would nearly quadruple from the current $28 billion to over $100 billion.

One of the goals of greater connectivity is providing nations in the Indo-Pacific the right options when it comes to sustainable development.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation is one model of how we can achieve it. The program is committed to data, accountability, and evidence-based decision-making to foster the right circumstances for private investment.

Last month, the United States and Nepal signed a $500 million compact agreement – the first with a South Asian nation – to invest in infrastructure to meet growing electricity and transportation needs in Nepal, and to promote more trade linkages with partners in the region, like India.

The United States and India must look for more opportunities to grow this connectivity and our own economic links, even as we look for more ways to facilitate greater development and growth for others in the region.

But for prosperity to take hold in the Indo-Pacific, security and stability are required. We must evolve as partners in this realm too.

For India, this evolution will entail fully embracing its potential as a leading player in the international security arena. First and foremost, this means building security capacity.

My good friend and colleague Secretary Mattis was in Delhi just last month to discuss this. We both eagerly look forward to the inaugural 2+2 dialogue, championed by President Trump and Prime Minister Modi, soon.

The fact that the Indian Navy was the first overseas user of the P-8 maritime surveillance aircraft, which it effectively fields with U.S. Navy counterparts, speaks volumes of our shared maritime interests and our need to enhance interoperability.

The proposals the United States has put forward, including for Guardian UAVs, aircraft carrier technologies, the Future Vertical Lift program, and F-18 and F-16 fighter aircraft, are all potential game changers for our commercial and defense cooperation.

The United States military’s record for speed, technology, and transparency speaks for itself – as does our commitment to India’s sovereignty and security. Security issues that concern India are concerns of the United States.

Secretary Mattis has said the world’s two greatest democracies should have the two greatest militaries. I couldn’t agree more.

When we work together to address shared security concerns, we don’t just protect ourselves, we protect others.

Earlier this year, instructors from the U.S. and Indian Armies came together to build a UN peacekeeping capacity among African partners, a program that we hope to continue expanding. This is a great example of the U.S. and India building security capacity and promoting peace in third countries – and serving together as anchors of peace in a very tumultuous world.

And as we implement President Trump’s new South Asia strategy, we will turn to our partners to ensure greater stability in Afghanistan and throughout the region. India is a partner for peace in Afghanistan and we welcome their assistance efforts.

Pakistan, too, is an important U.S. partner in South Asia. Our relationships in the region stand on their own merits. We expect Pakistan to take decisive action against terrorist groups based within their own borders that threaten their own people and the broader region. In doing so, Pakistan furthers stability and peace for itself and its neighbors, and improves its own international standing.

Even as the United States and India grow our own economic and defense cooperation, we must have an eye to including other nations which share our goals. India and the United States should be in the business of equipping other countries to defend their sovereignty, build greater connectivity, and have a louder voice in a regional architecture that promotes their interests and develops their economies. This is a natural complement to India’s “Act East” policy.

We ought to welcome those who want to strengthen the rule of law and further prosperity and security in the region.

In particular, our starting point should continue to be greater engagement and cooperation with Indo-Pacific democracies.

We are already capturing the benefits of our important trilateral engagement between the U.S., India, and Japan. As we look ahead, there is room to invite others, including Australia, to build on the shared objectives and initiatives.

India can also serve as a clear example of a diverse, dynamic, and pluralistic country to others – a flourishing democracy in the age of global terrorism. The sub-continent is the birthplace of four of the world’s major religions, and India’s diverse population includes more than 170 million Muslims – the third-largest Muslim population in the world. Yet we do not encounter significant number of Indian Muslims among foreign fighters in the ranks of ISIS or other terrorist groups, which speaks to the strength of Indian society. The journey of a democracy is never easy, but the power of India’s democratic example is one that I know will continue to strengthen and inspire others around the world.

In other areas, we are long overdue for greater cooperation. The more we expand cooperation on issues like maritime domain awareness, cybersecurity, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, the more the nations in the Indo-Pacific will benefit.

We also must recognize that many Indo-Pacific nations have limited alternatives when it comes to infrastructure investment programs and financing schemes, which often fail to promote jobs or prosperity for the people they claim to help. It’s time to expand transparent, high-standard regional lending mechanisms – tools that will actually help nations instead of saddle them with mounting debt.

India and the United States must lead the way in growing these multilateral efforts.

We must do a better job leveraging our collective expertise to meet common challenges, while seeking even more avenues of cooperation to tackle those that are to come. There is a need and we must meet the demand.

The increasing convergence of U.S. and Indian interests and values offers the Indo-Pacific the best opportunity to defend the rules-based global system that has benefited so much of humanity over the past several decades.

But it also comes with a responsibility – for both of our countries to “do the needful” in support of our united vision of a free, open, and thriving Indo-Pacific.

The United States welcomes the growing power and influence of the Indian people in this region and throughout the world. We are eager to grow our relationship even as India grows as a world leader and power.

The strength of the Indo-Pacific has always been the interaction among many peoples, governments, economies, and cultures. The United States is committed to working with any nation in South Asia or the broader region that shares our vision of an Indo-Pacific where sovereignty is upheld and a rules-based system is respected.

It is time we act on our vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific, supported and protected by two strong pillars of democracy – the United States and India. Thank you for your kind attention.

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