September 28, 2011
September 29, 2011 03:02 IST
As the center of geopolitics moves toward Asia, India [ Images ] plays a critical role in US strategy, says Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake [ Images ]. Aziz Haniffa reports.
The Obama [ Images ] administration's point man for South Asia, Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake, has said that the US-India relationship is rooted in the shared threat both countries face from international terrorism and the fact that India is situated in a dangerous neighborhood.
Speaking at the Strategic Asia 2011-2012: Asia Responds to Its Rising PowersChina and India, Blake said that Washington's "strategic relations with India will shape the world we live in, as the world settles into the still youngand at times turbulent21st century."
He said, US-India cooperation that has been unprecedented in the past two years, encompassing a depth and breadth in hitherto unchartered territories like cyber-security, was "rooted in the shared threat we face as democracies and a sobering recognition of the dangerous neighborhood India is located in."
"We remain deeply concerned about groups like Lashkar-e-Tayiba [ Images ] that pose a serious threat to Indian and US interests as well as regional stability," Blake said and noted that "earlier this month the Department of State announced the designation of Indian Mujahedeen a group with close links to LeT as a foreign terrorist organisation."
Blake said that in this regard, "We continue to press Pakistani authorities and demand that they do more to curtail LeT's activities and bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai [ Images ] attacks to justice."
Enumerating some of the areas where cooperation has been ramped up to levels that may have been unimaginable a couple of decades ago, the top US official said, "On the military-to-military side of our security engagement, we are expanding every aspect of our bilateral cooperation in both scope and substance. From defense bilateral exchanges, exercises, and capacity-building our militaries are finding ways to cooperate like never before."
"We've conducted over 50 bilateral military exercises with India in the last six years. The United States has hosted over 100 Indian military officers, just in the last year," he said, and added, "In terms of defense sales, we've done over $8 billion of defense deals with India in the last decade, with a lot of recent momentum from major C-17 and C-130J sales."
He said that "maritime security is also another emerging area of cooperation, driven by our shared interests in safeguarding freedom of navigation and ensuring the free flow of global trade and energy supplies." Blake said that US was elated that India has decided to chair a Plenary next year of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia.
Meanwhile, on trade and investment, he said that during the Second US-India Strategic Dialogue in New Delhi [ Images ] co-chaired by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [ Images ] and External Affairs Minister S M Krishna [ Images ], Clinton had announced "the resumption of technical discussions on a bilateral investment treaty, or BIT."
He also said that Clinton had made clear that another major priority for the US was the US-India civilian nuclear deal.
Blake said, "Secretary Clinton underscored the importance of India's pledge to ratify the Convention on Supplementary Compensation, and ensure that its nuclear liability regime is consistent with international standards."
"In essence, we want to ensure having expended enormous political capital getting the civil nuclear agreement through Congress, and through the NSG (Nuclear Suppliers Group) that US and Indian companies will get to benefit from this historic agreement," he said.
Thus, he said Clinton, during the Strategic Dialogue, had "again urged the Indians to fulfill the promise of our civil nuclear agreement by ensuring a level playing field for US companies."
Moving on to the envisaged rise of India in Asia, Blake said, "I think the secretary's own words in Chennai are worth repeating. As she said, we understand that much of the history of the 21st century will be written in Asia, and that much of the future of Asia will be shaped by decisions not only of the Indian government in New Delhi, but of governments across India, and perhaps most importantly, by the 1.3 billion people who live [in India]."
He said, "As the center of geopolitics moves toward Asia, India plays a critical role in US strategy. The United States sees India as a pillar of stability and prosperity in the Indian Ocean and beyond. India has long been a maritime power in Asia in its own right and only India itself can charter a path to navigate the geopolitical currents unfolding before us."
But, he argued that the US also was convinced that "India can leverage its democratic traditions, strong cultural influence, people-to-people ties, and booming economy, to help ensure the Asia of the 21st century is one defined by open markets, open societies, and open governments."
He said this was why Clinton "first articulated her vision of a New Silk Road at a speech in Chennai in July, after the US-India strategic dialogue. Blake explained, "The New Silk Road is a shared commitment to promote private-sector investment, increase regional trade and transit, and foster a network of linkages throughout the region to build up the Afghan private sector, and grow the Afghan economy to create a stable and prosperous Afghanistan within a stable and prosperous region."
"The Afghan government put forward a vision for its economic future based on increased private sector investment and expanded regional trade and integration," said Blake.
Blake said, "The International Afghanistan Conference in Bonn on December 5, 2011 will be a key opportunity for the government of Afghanistan, its neighbors, and the broader international community to address how the international community can strengthen economic cooperation to comprehensively address the opportunities the New Silk Road presents."
Then saying that he was "going out on a limb" in anticipation of "an inevitable question you might have: What about China," Blake said, "Our engagement across the Asia-Pacific region, and our belief that India has a consequential role to play in the region, will not in any way deflect from our strong relations with China."
"In fact, we see great promise in bringing China, India and the United States even closer together, in formal capacities," he said.
Blake said, "Increased dialogue is key and the 21st century global peace and security may well be defined by the level of harmony achieved by these three great powers. Just as global trade and commerce was made secure by the Royal Navy in 19th century, and by the American navy in the 20th century, perhaps it will be the cooperation of the American, Indian and Chinese navies that ensure global commercial routes are protected and enhanced."
"It is for this very reason that eliminating the scourge of piracy could be a natural way for the United States, India, and China to cooperate at sea," he said.
"All told, harmony in the Asia-Pacific region will ensure that the United States, India, and China will guide the world towards a golden age of safety, prosperity, and innovation a vision that is welcome news to the region and the world! And I can't emphasize India's role enough," Blake said.
"As the secretary noted in Chennai, "India's leadership will help to shape positively the future of the Asia Pacific," he said.
Aziz Haniffa in Washington DC
Tags: Robert Blake, Hillary Clinton, Asia Pacific, South Asia, US
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