By Arun Kumar
Denying suggestions that the US-India partnership was intended as a counterweight to China, a senior US official said its sole intent was “to build India up” working on common core values.
“I would fundamentally point to the fact that this is a US-India effort and it’s not necessarily to counterweight anyone,” Phil Reiner, White House’s senior director for South Asian Affairs, told foreign media at a round table Tuesday on Obama’s India trip.
“I don’t think either the US or India has an interest in any kind of confrontation or much less any sort of intent to contain China” he said. “That’s not the intent,” Reiner said. “The intent here is to work together… to work off of the core values that we have to build India up.”
“And this is something that we’re very much interested in doing, and it’s in both of our interests to do so,” he said. “I would not necessarily put that forward, though, as a counterweight to China per se.”
Both US and India, Reiner said, were “very much interested in working off of those fundamental values and establishing systems that basically work off of established rules and norms in the international sphere to avoid conflict, to avoid any situation where there may be perceived bullying.”
Discounting a New York Times report that the first issue that Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed as soon as they met was China, he said “there was many things that we spoke about.”
“Coming in the door, I think the primary thing that was talked about was the fact that we had just reached agreement on these two seminal documents – on the Delhi declaration and on the joint strategic vision,” Reiner said.
China was simply “an element” in the discussion about the region and “as we engage in the region and as countries grow and continue to expand their economic domain, that this is done within the rules and international norms that exist today,” he said.
“The China conversation is just as important as the full spectrum of conversations that we’re having about East Asia and the Indian Ocean writ large and the connectivity that remains there,” hew said.
In response to a question about Pakistan, Reiner said Obama and Modi “have maintained a consistent dialogue on the region, and of course, that includes Pakistan, it includes Afghanistan.”
The two he said had “a very positive conversation about the small steps” the two countries had taken “that’ll create that space so that the two can begin to re-engage.”
“And this is something that the United States very much supports, and that’s the nature of the discussion between the two leaders, that a dialogue is really something that would be incredibly important between the two countries and that we encourage it,” Reiner said.
Rejecting Pakistani criticism that US-India nuclear deal might upset the strategic stability in the region, Reiner pointed out that it was an agreement that was actually reached a number of years ago.
“This is simply the policy breakthrough that was necessary in order to actually implement what was already an existing agreement,” he said.
“So in terms of strategic stability, it’s really a continuation of something that already existed and has not had a negative impact.”
Reiner said over the course of the years, the US had “made it very clear that we can maintain robust relationships with both countries and that it’s not zero-sum.”