India 'appreciates' Tillerson's pro-India speech

NEW DELHI: India today pointedly acknowledged the US’s “positive evaluation of its relationship” with New Delhi, even as US secretary of state Rex Tillerson heads eastward next week, having recently rapped on their knuckles both China and its client state Pakistan.

Two days ago, Tillerson – ahead of a trip to India and Pakistan – not only openly expressed his preference for India over China, he also bluntly said India needs “a reliable partner” and declared, “the United States is that partner.”

“We appreciate US secretary of state Tillerson’s positive evaluation of the relationship and share his optimism about its future directions,” said a statement from the Ministry of External Affairs.

The ministry was referring to a Tillerson speech, made at a Washington think tank, during which he bluntly talked about “China’s challenges to the rules-based (world) order” and in a none-too-veiled reference to Pakistan, said that “states that use terror as an instrument of policy will only see their international reputation and standing diminish”.

Ergo, India on Friday made it a point to refer to the US and India’s “shared commitment to a rule-based international order”. As for referencing Tillerson’s allusion to Pakistan, India perhaps didn’t feel the need for it, as New Delhi and Washington have been bashing Islamabad on a regular basis, at least since August.

At his speech two days ago at Washington’s Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Tillerson said the US seeks “constructive relations” with China.

“But we won’t shrink from China’s challenges to the rules-based order, or where China subverts the sovereignty of neighboring countries, and disadvantages the US and our friends,” said the US secretary of state.

He explained why the US and India are “two bookends of stability on either side of the globe”, or, simply put, natural partners.

“In this period of uncertainty and angst, India needs a reliable partner on the world stage. I want to make clear: with our shared values and vision for global stability, peace and prosperity, the United States is that partner.”

Tillerson’s first S Asia visit as foreign affairs chief

To further strengthen that partnership, Tillerson is expected to meet with senior Indian officials on his trip to India, the exact dates of which have yet to be announced, but which will take place late next week, or early the week after that.

“He will hold consultations with the ministry of external affairs and other government leaders from India to discuss the implementation of the ideas he outlined yesterday in his speech at CSIS defining our relationship with India for the next century,” said a US State Department spokeswoman last night, referring to Tillerson’s speech at the think tank.

As this will be Tillerson’s inaugural visit to South Asia as secretary of state, he plans to follow up with Pakistan on the issues US President Donald Trump outlined in his explosive August 21 speech that outlined the current administration’s strategy for the South Asian region.

In that speech in August, Trump roundly berated Pakistan for giving “safe haven for agents of chaos, violence and terror”. He also envisioned a greater role for India in Afghanistan’s redevelopment. Clearly, these weren’t statements that made Pakistan happy, plunging its ties with the US seemingly to the point of no return.

US-Pakistan ties have recovered somewhat since, after the latter last week secured the release of a US-Canadian couple held hostage by the Taliban for five years, but that will only spur Tillerson to pile the pressure on Pakistan.

In meetings with Pakistan’s prime minister, foreign minister, and senior military officials, “secretary Tillerson will discuss our joint efforts to fight terrorist groups that threaten regional peace and stability and how Pakistan can support our effort to reach a peaceful solution in Afghanistan”, said the US state department spokeswoman.

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