Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in his first major India-policy speech set the tone of bilateral relationship between India and the US for 100 years, a State Department official said, observing that the talk had many audiences, including China.
“China’s obviously an audience of the speech. But this is a speech, obviously, which we hope all countries in the Indo-Pacific region will take to heart, that the Secretary and the President has placed a priority,” a State Department official told reporters.
He was speaking after Tillerson described India as an opportunity for the US.
“It’s a speech that was designed for many audiences,” the official said.
Noting that a free and open Indo-Pacific is a priority for both the President and the Secretary of State, the official said, because India is one of the anchors of an Indo-Pacific strategy, the Trump Administration wants to devote a lot of time to this country.
Tillerson is travelling to India next week. President Donald Trump is scheduled to travel to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and Philippines next month.
“So that’s the reason for the speech today; there are many audiences for this. But we really view this as a speech with a global audience,” the official said.
The speech on US-India relations for the next hundred years to implement President Trump’s new strategy for South Asia is culmination of several months of deliberation within the national security cabinet on the best approach to address challenges in South Asia and on the opportunities.
“The Trump Administration considers India as an opportunity and he wanted to present extended remarks and reflections on many ways that US can deepen its ties with India for the next hundred years, and how it is a critical component to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the official said.
“There is a lot of bilateral benefits that follow deepening economic, cultural, diplomatic, and security ties with India. But there are a range of benefits that also follow for the region, the Indo-Pacific region,” the State Department official said.
China has risen alongside India, but China has done so less responsibly and China has undermined the international rules-based order while countries like India operate within this rules-based order, the official said.
“We obviously want constructive relations with China. The Secretary is in regular contact with Chinese leadership. But we are not going to shrink or ignore China’s challenges to the rules-based order, or where China subverts the sovereignty of neighboring countries,” the official said.
“What we like is for many decades, the US has supported China’s rise, we have also supported India’s rise, but those two countries have risen very differently,” the official said.
As Tillerson said about the shared values, shared security, shared national security interests, shared economies, shared democracies, this is a great friendship that US wants to expand and deepen on all areas.
The official argued that there are good reasons bilaterally for the US and India to deepen its ties, but there are opportunities to grow the connectivity in the region.
Referring to the India-US and Japan tri-lateral in New York last month, the official said Japan is very supportive of a free and open Indo-Pacific.
“I’ve had many consultations with the Japanese about this. We have also talked with the Australians, and we envision a quadrilateral sort of — an anchoring – the Indo-Pacific anchored by these four countries of Australia, the US, India, and Japan, he said.
While the speech was mostly about India, the subtitle of the speech was “The Foundations of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.”
“So that’s what he talked about, including financing mechanisms, and he did talk about some of the predatory economics that we see in the area, and you have countries that are looking for better financing mechanisms and better partners, and we believe that countries like the US and India are those partners,” the official said.