Amid the standoff at Doklam and a reported transgression by Chinese troops in Uttarakhand, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has said that India-US partnership is crucial for the stability of the Indo-Pacific region. “One of the main challenges confronting the world today is the evolving situation in the Indo-Pacific,” Sushma Swaraj said late on Monday while inaugurating the first edition of the India-US Forum here. “Strong India-US partnership is critical for peace, stability and prosperity in this region,” she said. Her remarks come amid China’s increased aggressiveness in the South China Sea, most of which it claims as its own. China’s claims have been challenged by many of the littoral countries in the region. India, US and Japan held the Malabar joint naval exercises earlier this month in the Bay of Bengal, which is also seen as a strengthening of forces by the three against China trying to increase its footprint in the Indo-Pacific.
Sushma Swaraj said that India and the US stood together in upholding an international rules-based system that has benefited all nations. “We have also outlined the principles that should be adhered to in undertaking connectivity initiatives, including ensuring respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity,” she said, in reference to China’s ambitious One Belt One Road initiative, of which the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a major part. India has objected to the OBOR over sovereignty issues and lack of transparency.
The India-US joint statement issued after Prime Minister Narendra Modi met US President Donald Trump in Washington in June also backed India’s opposition to the OBOR on the question of sovereignty and transparency. “India will continue to work with the US and other partners in support of these objectives and principles.” She said the US should continue to be engaged in the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan while reaffirming India’s own commitment to work for the reconstruction of the war-torn country. “Another area of growing convergence is the high priority being attached by both sides to countering terrorism,” she stated.
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Stating that both India and the US have been direct victims of this scourge, she said in a veiled reference to Pakistan: “In India, we have been facing cross-border terrorism for many years now. This is now recognised as a larger regional — even global — challenge.”
She referred to the joint message against terrorism issued by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump during the former’s visit to Washington in June which sent a “clear and unambiguous message” against terrorism “to be pursued with resolve by the international community”.
The External Affairs Minister said that India has made its own contributions and remained committed to continue supporting the people and government of Afghanistan. “We have pledged another $1 billion to the earlier $2 billion as reflection of our continued commitment,” she stated.
India is among the biggest aid donors for the reconstruction of war-torn Afghanistan.
The External Affairs Minister also referred to the government transforming the Look East Policy into the Act East Policy in its engagements with the countries of southeast Asia. “Relationship with countries of Africa, Gulf region and Latin America have enhanced considerably,” she stated. As for India-US relations, Sushma Swaraj said that Modi’s June visit reaffirmed the principal directions of the bilateral relationship and provided a firm basis to further strengthen it.