US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson delivered a speech “Defining Our Relationship with India for the Next Century” at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington on Wednesday, calling on the two nations to act on their vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific. After implicitly criticizing China for failing to “promote jobs or prosperity” among Indo-Pacific nations, Tillerson explicitly attacked China for its alleged “provocative actions in the South China Sea” that “directly challenge the international law and norms.” Tillerson, who will visit India for the first time as Secretary of State next week, later noted “the world’s two greatest democracies should have the two greatest militaries.”
In Washington’s new South Asia policy as sketched out by Tillerson, the US intension of turning New Delhi into a stronghold to counterbalance Beijing could not be more obvious. It is not hard to comprehend such a move, which the US has been practicing for quite some time. The emergence of China has impacted upon Washington’s previously incomparable international status and global image. The US has felt pressure as some among its elite see China as their biggest competitor. The rise of India, on the other hand, is not at all disconcerting. Since New Delhi is also stressful about its increasing gap with China, it makes an ideal target for Uncle Sam to unite against Beijing.
But it’s not the Cold War anymore. Such an approach is utterly at odds with the interests of Asia, a region that desperately needs development and cannot be separated from China’s positive, cooperative driving forces.
The Belt and Road initiative, despite India not participating, has already brought investment, factories and employment to countries in Asia. This cannot be denied by Tillerson with a slight of hand.
Beijing is never against the US and India upgrading their relationship, but opposes any move that targets China. That only escalates tensions in the region and exposes the White House’s calculated ruse to make as many nations as possible into pawns.
Waiting for the US to fulfill its economic, technical, military and political promises would be naÃ¯ve of India. For instance, India’s bid for permanent UN Security Council membership cannot be unilaterally realized by the US. While India looks forward to receiving more US military knowhow, the US is simply willing to supply military products. Washington will never allow any major country to grow strong enough to develop into the only unmatched power in any region, not China in East Asia and certainly not India in South Asia.
Washington has failed to contain China’s growth in the past and cannot succeed in this goal in the future. Such a goal would actually hinder growth for the whole of Asia.