Tillerson to have big regional agenda

Tillerson to have big regional agenda


U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will embark on a crucial visit to India and Pakistan next week as part of his week-long five-nation tour that would also take him to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Switzerland.


  • Mr Tillerson said that trump administration wanted to “dramatically deepen” cooperation with New Delhi, seeing it as a key partner in the face of negative Chinese influence in Asia.

Areas of discussion:

  • In New Delhi, Tillerson will meet with senior Indian leaders to “discuss further strengthening of our strategic partnership and collaboration on security and prosperity” in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • Regional issues could take precedence over bilateral ones.
  • He is also expected to raise Washington’s new South Asia policy with respect to Pakistan and Afghanistan and prospects for more cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.
  • Mr Tillerson will also brief his Indian counterparts on the outcome of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (U.S.-China-Afghanistan-Pakistan) meeting on talks with Taliban that took place in Oman.
  • Both the sides will discuss pending bilateral issues including enhancing trade, the U.S.’s pitch to sell India UAV drones, F-16s and F-18s, and the outstanding decisions on the “foundational agreements” in defence.
  • China’s OBOR initiative and the Doklam standoff to be discussed.

Significance of visit:

  • The visits of Mr. Tillerson to Delhi indicate that they will provide all three — the U.S., Afghanistan and India — the opportunity to hold talks on crucial regional and security-related issues.
  • Mr Tillerson said “The world’s centre of gravity is shifting to the heart of the Indo-Pacific. The U.S. and India — with our shared goals of peace, security, freedom of navigation, and a free and open architecture — must serve as the eastern and western beacons of the Indo-Pacific.”
  • Tillerson, said both India and Pakistan are “important elements” in the U.S. policy for stabilising South Asia and characterised China a destabilising force.

Tense situation for China:

  • Tillerson also pointedly criticised China, which he accused of challenging international norms needed for global stability.
  • “China’s provocative actions in the South China Sea directly challenge the international law and norms that the United State and India both stand for,” he pointed out.
  • Tillerson also called out China, saying that its rise as a global power had been carried out “less responsibly” than India’s and that the country’s leaders had undermined the “international, rules-based order.”
  • “India and the United States should be in the business of equipping other countries to defend their sovereignty, build greater connectivity, and have a louder voice in a regional architecture that promotes their interests and develops their economies,” Tillerson added.

India-U.S relations:

  • India ranks just 130th on the World Bank’s annual survey on the ease of doing business. Yet Tillerson cited the growth of the two countries’ economic partnership, saying 600 American companies work there and that U.S. investment in the country has risen 500 percent in two years.
  • Bilateral trade will climb beyond the record $115 billion reached last year, noting that a U.S. shipment of crude oil arrived in India this month for the first time.
  • Citing India’s role as the world’s most populous democracy, Tillerson said the two nations “share a vision for the future.” He called for closer defense ties, referring to a range of hardware the U.S. is prepared to sell India

Tense situation for Pakistan:

  • The U.S. decision to expand relations with India almost certainly will upset India’s rival, Pakistan.
  • Pakistan was the main U.S. ally in South Asia for decades, but U.S. officials are frustrated with what they charge has been Pakistan’s failure to cut support for the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, where the administration wants India to play a bigger role in economic development.
  • As part of a South Asia strategy unveiled by Trump in August, Tillerson is expected to press Islamabad, which denies aiding the Taliban, to take stronger steps against extremists and allied groups and intensify efforts to pressure them to agree to peace talks with Kabul.
  • We expect Pakistan to take decisive action against terrorist groups based there that threaten its own people and the broader region,” Tillerson said.


Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani’s upcoming visit to India:

  • Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani will visit India on October 24.
  • The visit by President Ghani comes within days of a visit to Kabul by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and recent Taliban attack on the Afghan National Army base in Kandahar province that killed more than 50 security personnel.

Purpose of upcoming visit:

  • Mr Ghani is coming to meet the Indian leadership and hold a strategic consultation, particularly in the wake of the new U.S. policy for Afghanistan and South Asia.
  • The visits will provide India opportunity to hold talks on crucial regional and security-related issues.
  • Ghani’s visit, which is likely to last for half-a-day, is significant as it comes two-months after U.S. President Donald Trump announced his government’s new Afghanistan policy for which he has urged India to do more.

India and Afghanistan present relations:

  • Defence and security ties between India and Afghanistan have been on an upswing.
  • India has given four military helicopters to Afghanistan which has been trying to strengthen its air power following a significant cut in NATO forces there.
  • The last of the four Mi 24 attack choppers was given in November 2016.
  • Afghanistan has also been seeking India’s assistance in making functional Soviet-era helicopters and transport aircraft which were not in a flying condition.
  • In 2016, India had announced taking up 116 new developmental projects in 31 provinces of Afghanistan, weeks after US President Donald Trump sought New Delhi’s help in the economic development of that country.
  • India has been playing a key role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan and given it assistance worth $2 billion in the last few years.
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