Tiller­son ce­ments In­dia-US strate­gic bonds

The Tiller­son visit has laid the ground work for this evolv­ing strate­gic part­ner­ship which will have a sig­nif­i­cant bear­ing on the chang­ing strate­gic equa­tions of the 21st cen­tury.

SP's MAI - - FRONT PAGE - [ By Ran­jit Ku­mar ]

Though the Don­ald Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion took more than nine months to fi­nalise the South Asian strat­egy, the road laid by pre­vi­ous Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, for a com­pre­hen­sive and solid strate­gic part­ner­ship with In­dia has fur­ther been ce­mented by the new US Sec­re­tary of State, Rex Tiller­son. His visit to In­dia on Oc­to­ber 25 to 26, 2017, the first by a Sec­re­tary of State of the new Ad­min­is­tra­tion, at­tracted me­dia at­ten­tion be­cause of his strong mes­sage to Pak­istan on de­mol­ish­ing ter­ror­ist in­fra­struc­ture on the Pak­istani soil, has helped clear many cob­webs in In­dia-US re­la­tion­ships. Tak­ing ad­van­tage of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion de­ci­sion to de­clare In­dia as a Ma­jor De­fence Part­ner Tiller­son pressed for more de­fence sales from US com­pa­nies to In­dian armed forces. He es­pe­cially pleaded for the F-16 fighter sales to In­dia, which are com­pet­ing with Swedish Grip­pen. In­dia wants to pro­duce the se­lected fighter in In­dia un­der its ‘Make In In­dia’ pol­icy. The US Sec­re­tary also pleaded for F-18 fighter jets sup­plies to In­dia. Be­fore his de­par­ture for five na­tion tour in­clud­ing In­dia, the US ad­min­is­tra­tion had al­ready cleared the sales of Preda­tor drones

to In­dia. In­dia wants th­ese drones, which will help in keep­ing a close watch over the In­dian Ocean where the Chi­nese naval ships have been fre­quent­ing off late.

Be­sides Pak­istan pro­moted ter­ror­ism in South Asia, his in­ti­mate con­ver­sa­tions with top In­dian in­ter­locu­tors fo­cused deeply on strength­en­ing long term strate­gic part­ner­ships. This will fur­ther broaden and lengthen the In­dia-US strate­gic high­ways and sea lanes of not only South Asia but also the Indo-pa­cific re­gion.

After giv­ing a fi­nal shape to the South Asia strat­egy the US Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son landed in New Delhi with a much com­pre­hen­sive agenda for a strate­gic part­ner­ship, which is ex­pected to last be­yond this cen­tury. The part­ner­ship will not only be con­fined to bi­lat­eral one , but will be ex­panded to quadri­lat­eral group , which is now be­gin­ning to un­fold with the Ja­panese for­eign min­is­ter state­ment re­gard­ing the pro­posal for quadri­lat­eral talks be­tween US, Ja­pan, Aus­tralia and In­dia.

At the bi­lat­eral level, though, Tiller­son talked of build­ing a 100 years part­ner­ship, there are too many is­sues be­tween the two na­tions which needs to be re­solved to move to­wards a wrin­kle free ties. In­dia’s re­la­tions with Iran and Amer­i­can sweet and sour re­la­tions with Pak­istan still are the ma­jor hin­drances. In­dian in­ter­locu­tors very well un­der­stand, that the US has strained re­la­tions with Pak­istan not be­cause of In­dia, but Afghanistan, which has caused the re­turn of hun­dreds of body bags to US. Be­sides, the pol­icy of ap­pease­ment of Pak­istan has caused a huge fi­nan­cial drain to the US econ­omy. When Don­ald Trump took over the US ad­min­is­tra­tion he raised this is­sue and warned Pak­istan to de­sist from caus­ing harm to US in­ter­ests in Afghanistan. When the US author­i­ties talk of ter­ror­ism it is fo­cused more on Afghan based ter­ror groups and In­dian con­cerns are raised only in gen­eral terms. Still, the Tiller­son visit hogged the lime­light be­cause of his open warn­ing to Pak­istan to take ac­tion against Pak based ter­ror groups. Th­ese words are mu­sic to In­dian ears, but the ac­tion on ground will tell to what ex­tent US will go to pres­surise Pak­istan.

How­ever, since the two na­tions share com­mon strate­gic con­cerns re­gard­ing China and In­dian Ocean, both the coun­tries have been co­or­di­nat­ing and dis­cussing th­ese in var­i­ous bi­lat­eral and mul­ti­lat­eral fo­rums along with other like minded coun­tries like Ja­pan and Aus­tralia. It has of­ten been said that US wants to deepen strate­gic ties with In­dia in or­der to con­tain China. For this the US has opened its de­fence in­dus­try for In­dian forces. In­dian armed forces have in fact re­ceived arms and de­fence sys­tems worth $15 bil­lion in last one decade, Now the US wants more to sell and bag con­tracts for all the ma­jor re­quire­ments of In­dian armed forces, which plans to ac­quire weapons and sys­tems worth more than $200 bil­lion in next one decade. In­dia thus pro­vide a huge de­fence mar­ket for the US de­fence com­pa­nies. Hence, US em­pha­sis on stronger de­fence re­la­tions be­tween the two coun­tries.

Keep­ing this in mind, Tiller­son went be­yond his man­date and talked like a de­fence min­is­ter to urge In­dian lead­ers to ac­quire the US fight­ers like F-16 and F-18. The US ad­min­is­tra­tion has al­ready cleared the Guardian drones for In­dian navy, but th­ese will not be armed and meant only for sur­veil­lance, US wants to strengthen In­dian ca­pa­bil­i­ties in re­gional se­cu­rity. Tiller­son, ad­dress­ing the me­dia said, “The US backs In­dia’s emer­gence as a lead­ing power and will con­tinue to help In­dian ca­pa­bil­i­ties in pro­vid­ing se­cu­rity for the re­gion. We are ready to pro­vide the best tech­nol­ogy for In­dia’s mil­i­tary mod­erni­sa­tion.”

With In­dia des­ig­nated as a Ma­jor De­fence Part­ner, way has been cleared for US arms in­dus­tries to eas­ily trans­fer ma­jor high tech sen­si­tive de­fence equip­ments to In­dian armed forces. With ris­ing se­cu­rity chal­lenges from In­dia’s neigh­bor­ing coun­tries, In­dia also needs th­ese sys­tems, as In­dia plans to ex­tend its strate­gic reach be­yond the pa­cific seas, which China wants to dom­i­nate and con­trol.

Be­fore leav­ing for In­dia, Tiller­son had re­marked, “US 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 for fu­ture, The emerg­ing Delhi-Wash­ing­ton strate­gic part­ner­ship stands upon a shared com­mit­ment up­hold­ing rule of law, free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion, uni­ver­sal val­ues and free trade.”

To fur­ther strengthen In­dia-US strate­gic part­ner­ship and to counter China’s ris­ing clout with its am­bi­tious One Belt One Road con­nec­tiv­ity project, Tiller­son sug­gested that US and In­dia part­ner to build road con­nec­tiv­ity in the In­dian sub­con­ti­nent and port con­nec­tiv­ity in the Indo-pa­cific. This can be con­strued as an al­ter­na­tive to Chi­nese OBOR. He wanted the two big­gest democ­ra­cies to join hands in pro­vid­ing a rule based and trans­par­ent fi­nanc­ing mech­a­nism for the con­nec­tiv­ity projects.

There are many is­sues of com­mon strate­gic con­cerns to In­dia and US, which will be dis­cussed in depth dur­ing the 2+2 di­a­logue to be held shortly in New Delhi, as re­vealed by In­dian Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs Min­is­ter Sushma Swaraj after meet­ing with Tiller­son. The 2+2 di­a­logue en­vis­ages the si­mul­ta­ne­ous meet­ings of In­dian De­fence and Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs Min­is­ter with the US Sec­re­tary of State and De­fence along with the top of­fi­cials of both the min­istries. This kind of 2+2 di­a­logue In­dia presently con­ducts with Ja­pan.

Po­lit­i­cal and strate­gic part­ner­ships will not achieve depth un­less the peo­ple to peo­ple re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two na­tions are also strength­ened. Hence, Tiller­son was told in clear terms that is­sues re­lat­ing to H-1B visa and to­tal­i­sa­tion must be re­solved at the ear­li­est. Swaraj ad­vised Tiller­son pub­licly, “peo­ple-to-peo­ple con­tacts have played a crit­i­cal role in the de­vel­op­ment of In­dia-US re­la­tions. This is in part – this is most ev­i­dent in our mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial dig­i­tal part­ner­ship, driven by our skilled pro­fes­sion­als. Sec­re­tary Tiller­son has very cor­rectly pointed out that no two coun­tries en­cour­age in­no­va­tion bet­ter than the US and In­dia. In this re­gard, we dis­cussed the very sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to the US econ­omy of In­dian-skilled pro­fes­sion­als who travel and work un­der H-1B and L-1 visa pro­grammes. Swaraj also said, “I have also sought Sec­re­tary Tiller­son’s sup­port for res­o­lu­tion of the long-pend­ing is­sue of to­tal­i­sa­tion, and I have asked that noth­ing by the US should be done which will af­fect or ad­versely af­fect In­dia’s in­ter­ests. In­no­va­tion, en­trepreneur­ship, and eco­nomic part­ner­ship have been an im­por­tant foun­da­tion of our re­la­tions.

With In­dia US eco­nomic re­la­tions deep­en­ing to the level of over $100 bil­lion and as both the coun­tries aim to ex­pand this trade to the level of $500 bil­lion within next five years, the two coun­tries are on a strong wicket to fur­ther deepen bi­lat­eral de­fence and strate­gic part­ner­ships. The Tiller­son visit has laid the ground work for this evolv­ing strate­gic part­ner­ship which will have a sig­nif­i­cant bear­ing on the chang­ing strate­gic equa­tions of the 21st cen­tury.

With In­dia-US eco­nomic re­la­tions deep­en­ing to the level of over $100 bil­lion and as both the coun­tries aim to ex­pand this trade to the level of $500 bil­lion within next five years, the two coun­tries are on a strong wicket to fur­ther deepen bi­lat­eral de­fence and strate­gic part­ner­ships.

The US Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son with Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi in New Delhi on Oc­to­ber 25, 2017

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.