US, India cooperation in Indo-Pacific based on shared commitment to uphold rule of law: State Dept

Lalit K Jha

Washington, Jan 31 (PTI) Underscoring the important role of India in America's Indo-Pacific strategy, a US official has said the partnership between the two nations in the region stands on a shared commitment to uphold the rule of law, freedom of navigation and counter-terrorism cooperation and there was no difference in their approach in the area.

Briefing the media about US President Donald Trump's vision in the Indo Pacific, Jonathan Henick, Deputy Assistant Secretary For Central Asia, said America, under its renewed commitment to the Indo-Pacific, was strengthening relations with partner nations that share the value of freedom and openness.

It includes growing our broad and multi-faceted strategic partnership with India, he said.

America's focus in the region is to safeguard and advance the core principles like respect for rule of law, national sovereignty, freedom of navigation, open market, good governance, transparency and democratic institutions, Henick said.

'These include commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, democratic values, rule of law, and private sector-led development,' he said.

'The India-US partnership stands on a shared commitment to uphold the rule of law, freedom of navigation, democratic values, counter-terrorism cooperation and private sector-led economic growth, so it is not surprising that there is virtually no daylight in our approaches to the Indo-Pacific,' he added.

Strengthening the security and diplomatic cooperation between India and the United States in the Indo-Pacific region was at the centre of the 2+2 dialogue held last December, Henick said.

'Last December, we hosted the second annual US-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, led by our secretaries of State and Defense and their counterparts. Strengthening our security and diplomatic cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region was at the center of those discussions,' he told foreign reporters at the Washington Foreign Press Center.

Under its renewed commitment to the vital Indo-Pacific region, the US is strengthening relations with partner nations that share the values of freedom and openness.

'That includes growing our broad and multi-faceted strategic partnership with India,' the official said.

The US, he said, also continues to coordinate its approaches in the Indo-Pacific with the quadrilateral partners: India, Japan and Australia.

In November 2017, President Trump outlined a vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific, a biogeographic region comprising the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean, the western and central Pacific Ocean.

Henick said there is some misconception that the US wants to exclude some nations from it.

The US has been pushing for a broader role by India in the strategically important Indo-Pacific region.

India, the US and several other world powers have been talking about the need to ensure a free, open and thriving Indo-Pacific in the backdrop of China's rising military maneuvering in the region.

'We encourage and welcome all countries in the region to commit to and act in accordance with the principles' that the Indo-Pacific vision is based on and be a part of it.

Walter Douglas, a Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, when asked whether America's strategy wants to exclude China, said the US' Indo-Pacific strategy excludes no nation.

He said that although the approach to the Indo-Pacific has been called a strategy, 'it is really a vision for how we see the region going forward'.

'It is a restatement and upgrading, and the inclusion of India in this wider vision' because it can bring prosperity to the region,' he added.

Douglas said that America''s 'vision' of the Indo-Pacific extends from the west coast of India to the west coast of the US from Mongolia down to the bottom of New Zealand.

Defending the renaming of Indo-Pacific, he said: 'Geographically it's pretty easy. It's basically the west coast of India to, say, the west coast of the United States, from Mongolia down to the bottom of New Zealand. So that area is what is geographically part - we consider the Indo-Pacific'.

'It's really a vision for how we see the region going forward in talking about free and open Indo-Pacific and talking about the - all these - the private sector-led development, all of that sort of thing. So it excludes no nation.

'We think every nation should be part of it. These are universal values that we're speaking about, and we think they are values that historically, especially let's say in the last 50, 60, 75 years, have brought a lot of prosperity to the region. So it's, in a sense, a restatement and upgrading, an inclusion of India in this wider vision, because we see the economies and the interests being connected much more. But it excludes no nation in that region,' Douglas added. PTI LKJ/NSA CPS AKJ CPS