While speaking warmly of India, Tillerson did not fail to point out that Pakistan was a major US partner, and that all “relations stand on merit”.
On Wednesday, a week before US secretary of state Rex Tillerson is to arrive in India in what looks like a familiarisation visit to the region — he is due to visit Pakistan and Afghanistan as well — after assuming charge, he made a speech showing great friendship with India at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. We should welcome Mr Tillerson with warmth and pursue any practical ideas of common interest he may have, but be conscious that we today find ourselves in a world approaching a pluri-polar status. That basically means that, unlike in the bipolar Cold War era, interlinkages of many kinds will be reached among each other by key nations and there are no defined camps held down by immutable rules of security politics.
In that sense, possibilities of promiscuous behaviour are distinct in today’s world. Nations like America, Russia, China and India will have multiple irons in the fire at any time as they seek to push their national interest. But still, there may be a degree of natural convergence, whether always in the strategic direction or not, among countries that have a tradition of consciously pursuing the democratic ideal.
India and the US will often find themselves on the same page, but when they don’t, there’s no need for undue anxiety that our divergences in one sphere will mar other areas of understanding, or that all differences must be of a long-term nature.
Mr Tillerson said in this “period of angst”, “India needs a reliable partner on the global stage, and the US is that partner.” Similar ideas have been expressed earlier — to the extent India is now called a major defence partner of the US. The two countries have worked fairly closely for nearly two decades, including in defence, counter-terrorism, trade enhancement and cybersecurity.
But there’s no gainsaying that close US-China ties have also existed since the 1970s, and China’s current status as a major economic power owes not a little to America’s support, and that the US-Russia relationship is not all antagonism, though confrontation has a more visible profile in that equation.
While speaking warmly of India, Mr Tillerson did not fail to point out that Pakistan was a major US partner, and that all “relations stand on merit”. This needs to be appreciated and understood here. The secretary of state has urged close cooperation between India and the US in the Indo-Pacific region. Some quarters wrongly see this as a call to isolate China. Indeed, such a venture initiated by any country against a major entity is doomed to fail. As a separate paradigm, however, there is much scope for India and the US to work closely in the Indo-Pacific region.