US-India Global Review

7 US-INDIA GLOBAL REVIEW JANUARY-MARCH 2018 economic cooperation in Asia. “We’ll never have the same relationship with China, a nonde- mocratic society, that we have with India,” asserted Tillerson dur- ing 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 coun- tering China’s aggressive stance in the South China Sea. In a wide-ranging speech that dwelt on defense and counterter- rorism cooperation, and trade to cyberspace and the contributions of Indian-Americans, Tillerson committed Washington to “dramat- ically deepening” the bilateral rela- tionship. Noting the Indo-Pacific region which was home to more than 3 billion people, and several emerg- ing economies, Tillerson predicted a “global shift” in the area’s mar- ketshare and contended it was going to be the most consequen- tial part of the globe over the next century. Not mincing any words Tillerson said, “We need to collab- orate 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 dis- order, conflict, and predatory eco- nomics,” clearly pointing at China. “The emerging Delhi- Washington strategic partnership stands upon a shared commit- ment upholding the rule of law, freedom of navigation, universal values, and free trade,” he said, asserting further that, “Our nations are two bookends of sta- bility – 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. “The speech gave precedence to India over China – without qual- ifications,” asserted Smith. Tillerson called the current challenges and dangers in the Indo-Pacific region, substantial, including terrorism, North Korea’s nuclear weapons, cyber attacks etc., all of which threaten India’s rise. “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 pros- perity, the United States is that partner,” Tillerson said. Doubling Down on Democracy “China, while rising alongside India, has done so less responsi- bly, at times undermining the international, rules-based order even as countries like India oper- ate within a framework that pro- tects other nations’ sovereignty,” Tillerson maintained. He accused China of “subverting the sover- eignty of neighboring countries, thus disadvantaging the U.S. and our it’s friends.” Fighting words. “It is indeed time to double down on a democratic partner that is still rising – and rising responsi- bly – for the next 100 years,” Tillerson said referring to India, and called for the two countries to “foster greater prosperity and security with the aim of a free and open Indo-Pacific.” The U.S.-India coordination in East Asia, Tillerson said, complimented India’s “Act East” policy. “It was a very frank speech and sent a message as the Chinese party congress was meeting and Xi Jinping was talking about Beijing’s stature on the world stage,” said Walter Andersen, head of the South Asia Studies department at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. On one issue of concern to India, One Belt, One Road (OBOR, Tillerson appeared to move closer to India’s position expressing skepticsm. Tillerson’s message showed Washington has evolved from a position of cautious acceptance of OBOR initiative to one of skepti- cism, Smith said. It “more clearly articulated U.S. opposition to China’s One Belt One Road policy than any in this or previous administration.” The OBOR initiative, consid- ered the keystone of President Xi Jinping’s foreign and domestic policy, includes roads and rail lines, oil pipelines, potential cur- rency integration etc., along the old Silk Route going from central China all the way to Europe. While India critiqued the plan and refused to send a representative to the OBOR meeting held in China earlier this year, Washington sent an observer to the summit. The changed position on OBOR evident from Tillerson’s speech was not least because of New Delhi, especially when such "We'll never have the same relationship with China, a nondemocratic society, that we can have with India." -Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “