India is going to be a “very important” player globally and the stronger it becomes, the more beneficial it will be for world peace, a senior Obama Administration official has said amid preparations to give a red carpet welcome to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
There is a “sense that there is a natural convergence, a natural convergence of views between India and the US both in terms of wider Asia Pacific region, Indian Ocean region as well as a broader view globally,” US Assistant Secretary of State for Political Military Affairs Puneet Talwar said. “We think India is going to be very important globally, but also in the Asian continent. We think, the stronger India becomes, the more capable it becomes, the more economic power it accrues, that’s for the benefit of global peace and prosperity,” Talwar said.
“That’s what the United States wants ultimately. We share that very much with India. We see India playing a stabilising role in that part of the world and taking on greater responsibilities that will accrue as it continues to emerge into its own,” he said. Officials from both the State Department and the Defense Department said there is a natural convergence of India’s “Look East Policy” and the “Asia Pacific Re-balance” of the US.
“We have our Asia Pacific Re-balance. India has its Look East policy. There is a natural convergence between those two. I think, that an India that is playing its rightful role, actually in our view is a very positive thing. It can’t do harm. It can only do well in terms of providing stability, security, peace and prosperity in the Asia Pacific,” Talwar said. “That is ultimately what we want and I have a sense that this is very much shared by India,” he said.
Having personally received feedback from his top three Cabinet ministers, US President Barack Obama and his administration have begun preparations for welcoming Modi to the White House, which going by indications would kick-off a new phase of relationship between the world’s two largest and oldest democratic countries, officials said.
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Strategic relationship, defense ties and commerce are likely to be the key pillars of the next phase of the relationship. This has been reflected in Obama’s decision to send his Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzeker, to India in the first 100 days of the Modi-led government. This is probably for the first time that an American Defense Secretary has visited India so early in any Indian government’s tenure.
“This shows the significance Obama Administration attaches to its defence and strategic relationship with the new Modi Government,” a senior Pentagon official said. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, was quick to point out that things in the Indian Defence establishment under Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, who is also the Union Finance Minister, are moving at a fast pace, unseen in the past several years.
At the Pentagon, preparations are afoot for the Jaitley’s visit to the US defence headquarters in October when he will visit Washington to attend the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. “We had very constructive engagements. There seems to be a lot of new energy, a lot of will on both sides to take the relationship forward, to try to take it to new levels,” said Talwar, who accompanied Hagel to India last month.
The real focus of this particular visit was trying to look at ways, trying to understand each other better from the strategic stand point and then making a commitment by identifying specific areas of co-operation going forward. “We had some very good discussions on military and
defence cooperation, in particular issues around co-production, co-development and further military engagement,” Talwar said. “The sense I think that we have on both sides is that this is a relationship that is worth trying to move in a much stronger direction,” he said.
According to senior defence officials, the US is now awaiting feedback from the Modi administration on the list it gave to the previous government on co-development and co-production, which has been prepared in consultation with the defence industry. The list remains classified.
The US now has moved the process, seeking permission from the Indian government to make it public, another senior US Defence Department official said. Officials in the State Department and the Pentagon are very enthusiastic about the meetings Kerry and Hagel had with
Prime Minister Modi in New Delhi.
“We sensed very positive view on their part. The fact that the Prime Minister received the Secretary of Defence and the nature of the conversation; suffice it to say that was very positive exchange,” Talwar said. “We got the sense both from him (PM) as well as from Minister Jaitley that US-India relationship is very important one for the Indian government and they are prepared to further develop that relationship,” he said.
“This Administration has made a commitment to re-balance to Asia Pacific. There is a huge amount of trade that flows through that region, it’s growing economically, have majority of the world’s population. There are many reasons to re-balance to Asia Pacific and India obviously is one of the critical factors,” he added. An inter-agency team of officials led by the White House is holding weekly meetings to make preparations for the Modi’s visit and work on the deliverables.