Asserting that India is a potential “counterweight” to China’s growing regional influence in Asia, a top US lawmaker has urged the Obama Administration to strengthen its ties with New Delhi.
“From a strategic perspective India is a potential counterweight to China’s growing regional influence in Asia. They’ve become increasingly vocal on issues like freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and Indian Ocean region,” Congressman Eliot Engel said during a Congressional hearing yesterday.
Speaking during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Challenges and Opportunities in Asia, the Congressman from New York argued that the world’s largest democracy, India, should be an integral part of America’s Asia policy.
“As the world’s third largest economy, India has the potential to become a major economic player in East Asia, and is already playing a constructive role in maritime issues,” he said.
“It’s the third largest economy in the world by purchasing power parity and is the largest democracy in the Asia region.
“The US-India relationship is important, it’s growing, in particular on the defense side, and Prime Minister Modi will be coming to Washington again in a couple of months to meet with President Obama,” Engel said.
In response Blinken said the Obama Administration strongly shares lawmakers view on the importance of India both in and of itself but also as a part of the region and as an increasingly vital regional actor.
“India has its own regional policy that dovetails very nicely with the work we’re doing on the rebalance,” he said.
The US is “working increasingly to integrate India into these efforts,” he said.
“We are doing two things. We’re building our own relationship with India as evidenced by the extraordinary level of high level engagement including Prime Minister Modi’s return visit here, the President being received for the first time as the honored guest at Republic Day but also in very concrete collaboration across the board,” Blinken said.
“Everything from climate and smart cities to improving the business climate to defense cooperation to production cooperation even in the defense area. Intelligence sharing, information sharing, counter-terrorism, countering violent extremism — across the board the relationship has been elevated,” he said.
“Critical to this is exactly what you’re pointing to which is integrating India into these regional frameworks so that we’re working together jointly. And again, the example with Japan is a very good but this is exactly the direction that we want to go in,” the top American diplomat said.