US seeks broader strategic partnership with India across Indo-Pacific region: Tillerson    

Bagram Air Base, (Afghanistan) Oct 23 (IANS) The United States seeks a broader role for India not just in the South Asian area but beyond it as a strategic partner across the Indo-Pacific region, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Monday.

At a news conference here, he was asked if he had talked to Pakistani leaders since his recent speech on India and was “trying to reassure them” about New Delhi’s involvement in Afghanistan.

Tillerson, who is scheduled to visit India for talks with leaders in New Delhi, explained that the US approach was that the scope of its relationship with India was not confined to South Asia, but went beyond Pakistan’s regional interests to a wider area stretching across the Indian and Pacific Oceans and having global implications.

“Our view of the relationship with India is one that’s of strategic importance not just for this specific region, but in the context of that speech it was about a free and open Indo-Pacific region stretching all the way to – from Japan to India,” Tillerson said. “So it’s a broader relationship.”

Tillerson said that he had not yet spoken to leaders in Islamabad about his speech on India, but would talk about on Tuesday when he visits Pakistan.

But he added: “We do, though, believe that India has a very important positive role that India can play in the process to achieve a peaceful, stable Afghanistan as well. They already are providing important economic activity – creating jobs – which is important for the future Afghanistan. And we think they – we want to encourage that as well.”

“We think they can be a very positive influence on creating the right environment for the future in Afghanistan,” he said.

On the purpose of his visit, Tillerson said: “I thought it was very important to stop here in Afghanistan coming to the South Asia region as part of the recently announced South Asia policy and strategy that President Trump has put forth.”

Trump had warned Pakistan in August of consequences if it continued to allow terrorists to operate, while calling for increased Indian involvement in helping Afghanistan.

On October 18, Tillerson fleshed out the US strategy on India as a strategic partner to counterbalance China and called Washington and New Delhi as “bookends” of a democratic world.

Tillerson said that in Pakistan he will discuss US demands for securing Afghanistan and its conditions for continuing their relationship.

“We have made some very specific requests of Pakistan in order for them to take action to undermine the support that the Taliban receives and the other terrorist organisations receive in Pakistan,” he said.

“And we’ve said in this whole strategy this is a conditions-based approach, and so our relationship with Pakistan will also be conditions-based. It will be based upon whether they take action that we feel is necessary to move the process forward of both creating the opportunity for reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan, but also ensuring a stable future Pakistan.”

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