US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Says World Needs US and India to Have Strong Ties, Chides China
File photo of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. (Reuters)
Washington: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on Wednesday for the US and India to expand strategic ties. He also pointedly criticized China, which he accused of challenging international norms needed for global stability.
Tillerson was speaking on relations between the world's two largest democracies ahead of his first trip to South Asia as secretary of state at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
He said the world needed the US and India to have a strong partnership. He said the two nations share goals of security, free navigation, free trade and fighting terrorism in the Indo-Pacific, and serve as "the eastern and western beacons" for an international rules-based order which is increasingly under strain.
Both India and China had benefited from that order, but Tillerson said India had done so while respecting rules and norms, while China had "at times" undermined them. To make his point, he alluded to China's island building and expansive territorial claims in seas where Beijing has long-running disputes with Southeast Asian neighbors.
"China's provocative actions in the South China Sea directly challenge the international law and norms that the United States and India both stand for," Tillerson said in an address at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.
He added that the US seeks constructive relations with China but "won't shrink" from the challenges it poses when it "subverts the sovereignty of neighboring countries, and disadvantages the US and our friends."
US-India relations have generally prospered in the past decade, in part because of their shared concerns about the rise of China. While President Donald Trump has looked to deepen cooperation with China on addressing the nuclear threat from North Korea, he's also sought a closer relationship with India, which shares US worries on Islamic extremism.
"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 said.
Tillerson said the US wants to help improve India's military capabilities, and also improve security cooperation among the region's major democracies, which included Japan and Australia.
Tillerson said the US and India were leading regional efforts on counterterrorism. He called for India's archrival Pakistan "to take decisive action against terrorist groups based within their own borders that threaten its own people and the broader region."