The US policy on China is gradually becoming clearer with the strategic inputs that the administration receives and digests. The Trump administration on Wednesday bluntly proposed that Washington and New Delhi work together in the Indo-Pacific region to counter the disruptive force that China has become. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, soon to visit the sub-continent, reflected a new level of plain-speaking as he sought to woo Delhi to counter Beijing’s growing assertiveness in the region and beyond.
He said 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.” In a candid address to Washington think-tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Tillerson added: “In this period of uncertainty and 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.” This should be a morale booster for New Delhi at a time when China is threatening to breathe down India’s neck by building a road connecting China with Pakistan passing through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir which India regards as its own territory.
Tillerson went on in the same vein: “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 US Secretary of State’s remarks came hours after President Trump publicly and symbolically threw his support behind India by hosting a Diwali event at the White House. “The world’s centre of gravity is shifting to the heart of the Indo-Pacific.
The United States 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,” said Tillerson. The Secretary of State also issued a blunt warning to China’s client state Pakistan, saying “states that use terror as an instrument of policy will only see their international reputation and standing diminish . “It is the obligation, not choice, of every civilised nation to combat the scourge of terrorism” and the United States and India are leading that regional effort together, Tillerson said with candour.