In­dia, US mull work­ing with Oz, Ja­pan, ASEAN to se­cure Indo-Pa­cific

Financial Chronicle - - AROUND THE GLOBE - LALIT K JHA

With China in­creas­ingly as­sert­ing its pres­ence in the Indo-Pa­cific, In­dia and the US in their first 2+2 di­a­logue have dis­cussed en­gage­ment with Ja­pan, Aus­tralia and ASEAN na­tions to se­cure the seas and the skies in the re­gion, a se­nior Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial has said.

Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs Min­is­ter Sushma Swaraj and De­fence Min­is­ter Nir­mala Sithara­man held the cru­cial talks with US Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo and De­fence Sec­re­tary James Mat­tis in New Delhi on Septem­ber 6.

While China claims al­most all of the re­source-rich South China Sea, Viet­nam, the Philip­pines, Malaysia, Brunei and Tai­wan have counter claims over the area.

China re­cently de­ployed anti-ship cruise mis­siles and sur­face-to­sur­face mis­sile sys­tems in the dis­puted South China Sea amid fre­quent for­ays by US naval and sur­veil­lance air­craft over the re­gion to as­sert the free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion.

In a con­fer­ence call with re­porters on Mon­day, Alice Wells, the Prin­ci­pal Deputy As­sis­tant Sec­re­tary of State for South and Cen­tral Asia, said dur­ing the dis­cus­sion, China's ref­er­ence came up “most in the con­text of the vi­sion the two na­tions (In­dia and US) have for the In­doPa­cific re­gion, which ex­cludes no na­tion.”

The US has about $1.4 bil­lion in trade with the Indo-Pa­cific, over $850 bil­lion in for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment.

“So the con­ver­sa­tions be­tween the two coun­tries dur­ing the 2+2 Di­a­logue were how they can bi­lat­er­ally, tri-lat­er­ally with Ja­pan and quadri­lat­er­ally with Aus­tralia and with the ASEAN can we work to pro­mote eco­nomic se­cu­rity and good gov­er­nance and se­cu­rity of the seas and the skies,” Wells said.

“We dis­cussed the Indo-Pa­cific as an op­por­tu­nity for the US and In­dia to be able to of­fer coun­tries al­ter­na­tives for de­vel­op­ment, al­ter­na­tives for how they’re go­ing to pur­sue sig­nif­i­cant in­fra­struc­ture projects and how they're go­ing to work to be able to cre­ate a free and open trad­ing sys­tem that has ad­vanced all the coun­tries of the world since post World War-II,” she said.

Wells said the US and In­dia wel­come con­tri­bu­tions by China to re­gional de­vel­op­ment as long as it ad­here to high stan­dards where there's trans­parency, rule of law and sus­tain­able fi­nanc­ing.

"But in­stead what we see is an op­por­tu­nity to use pri­vate sec­tors to con­trib­ute mean­ing­fully to de­vel­op­ment of the re­gion," she said.

Re­spond­ing to a ques­tion on the Quadri­lat­eral Se­cu­rity Di­a­logue, Wells said, “We have been talk­ing about prin­ci­ples for the sup­port­ive in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment and hav­ing our ex­perts at all lev­els en­gaged.”

File: PM Naren­dra Modi meets the US Sec­re­tary of State, Michael R. Pom­peo and the US Sec­re­tary of De­fence, James Mat­tis, in New Delhi

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