25 Oct 17 /Wednesday
The timing of the visit clearly hints at USA’s intention to empower India in the South Asia region and same time also contain China’s provocative actions. There are clear indications that the US is willing to lend support to India, and provide the arsenal for the success of initiatives such as Digital India and Make in India especially in the field of defence. It would be interesting to see what US Secretary of State, Tilerson has to offer to India during this visit. The key issues to watch out for are:
India’s role in Afghanistan
In August, President Trump had said “We appreciate India’s important contributions to stability in Afghanistan, but India makes billions of dollars in trade from the United States and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development.” Does US want Indian boots on ground in Afghanistan is what needs to be expedited.
Both the Boeing F/A 18 Super Hornet and the Lockheed Martin F 16 block 70 are on offer to India with technology transfer. India has shown keen interest for purchase of state of the art multi mission maritime patrol Predator Guardian UAV’s from General Atomics, which US has presently put on hold. Any positive outcome in this regard will bolster India’s offensive options along some of its porous borders.
China is set to be a key talking point during the secretary of state’s visit to India which was indicated as much last week, when Tilerson contrasted India with China in a speech on 18th October, he said “The driving force of our close relationship rests in the ties between our peoples our citizens, business leaders, and our scientists. We’ll never have the same relationship with China, a nondemocratic society, that we can have with a major democracy.”
Terrorism in Pakistan
Tilerson appeared to shift tack, tweeting effusively about the relationship with Islamabad (after Pakistani forces helped rescue an American woman and her family from captivity of Taliban), taking a complete U-turn, as he had recently lambasted Pakistan for providing “safe haven to agents of chaos, violence and terror.” The “condition based approach” with Pakistan that he spoke of; what are these conditions and how they might be achieved is what India needs to monitor.
There is no denial that the rise of China remains the single most important driver of the growing partnership between US and India however, whether it is just an eye wash to caution China or something concrete would come out of this visit would be interesting to see.