November 18, 2012

With eye on Beijing, US signals ‘full embrace’ of Delhi


By Chidanand Rajghatta, 

TNN | Nov 17, 2012, 05.57 AM IST

WASHINGTON: President Obama's top national security adviser said on Thursday that the United States has "given a full embrace of India's rise," leaving little doubt that Washington sees New Delhi as a strategic counterweight to Beijing regardless of what China, India itself, and the rest of the world thinks of the idea and their response to it.

The exuberant phrasing from national security advisor Tom Donilon, coming just ahead of the President's first foray abroad (to South East Asia) after his re-election, spilled out in response to a searching question from an Indonesian diplomat who wondered about the evolving US relationship with India and China, and why in his speech, Donilon had described India as a strategic partner but not China.

"There's more of an element of competition when you described your relationship with China and there's nothing like that when you describe your relationship with India. Is it too much for us in Southeast Asia, for example, to expect that one day there will be a strategic partnership between US and China?" the diplomat, Indonesia's ambassador to US Dino Patti Djalal, asked after a Donilon speech in which he used the familiar expression of India as America's strategic partner for the 21st century.

In his reply, Donilon stepped it up a notch. "With respect to India, we have given a full embrace of India's rise. The President went to India on a three-day trip, as you know, and stood beneath the picture of Mahatma Gandhi, and called for India's membership in a reformed Security Council," he told the gathering of policy wonks at the Center for Strategic and International studies.

"It's a full embrace of India's rise as a partner," he repeated. "And again, as two of the most important democracies in the world, it's an important strategic thrust for us as well."

Donilon agreed that the US relationship with China is full of challenges, but said Washington is trying to build a stable, productive, constructive relationship with Beijing that can accommodate elements of competition.

"We're trying to build a relationship between China and the United States against a backdrop of theoreticians who say that this is not possible to do; that history would point you to the inevitability of conflict between a rising power and a status quo power," news agencies quoted Donilon as saying.

"We don't believe that international relations is some subset of physics. There is human agency and leadership involved here, and that's what we're trying to do, to build this out in the most constructive and positive, productive relationship that we can," he added.

The elaborate and nuanced remarks from the top national security official came even as President Obama embarks on a landmark visit to Burma, the first by a US President, this weekend. He will meet Burma's celebrated leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who would have returned from New Delhi by then. From Burma, he will go to Thailand and Cambodia, where he will attend the Asean summit, as part of a continuing US effort to project itself as an Asia-Pacific power that will not cede influence to China as it builds on old alliances and new

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