Tillerson Signals Impatience With China on North Korea, Trade

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"China's provocative actions in the South China Sea directly challenge the global law and norms that the United States and India both stand for", Tillerson said in an address at the Centre for Strategic and worldwide Studies, a Washington think tank.

"President Trump and [Indian] Prime Minister Modi are committed - more than any of our leaders before them - to building an ambitious partnership that benefits not only our two great democracies, but other sovereign nations working toward greater peace and stability". The MEA said his statement brought out the various strengths of Indo-US partnership and highlighted India's shared commitment to a rule-based worldwide order.

The US decision to expand relations with India will nearly certainly upset India's rival, Pakistan, where Tillerson is also visiting next week, said a senior US Department of State official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Economic cooperation has lagged behind defense cooperation, and so we can read this as an effort to expand the relationship beyond its main comfort level of defense and security". He called for India's archrival Pakistan "to take decisive action against terrorist groups based within their own borders that threaten its own people and the broader region".

The United States is pushing for a four-nation mechanism with India, Japan and Australia for security cooperation on the Indo-Pacific - a move which is likely to irk China.

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And he laid out a vision of an "Indo Pacific" order stretching from the USA west coast to India that would be underpinned by the U.S. and its allies, a move that could be seen in Beijing as an attempt at containment or as a challenge in a region that China sees as falling under its sphere of influence.

"China, while rising alongside India, has done so less responsibly, at times undermining the worldwide, rules-based order", the USA diplomat said. As for referencing Tillerson's allusion to Pakistan, India perhaps didn't feel the need for it, as New Delhi and Washington have been bashing Islamabad on a regular basis, at least since August.

He described India as a "partner" in a "strategic relationship", adding the USA would "never have the same relationship with China, a non-democratic society".

"In this period of uncertainty and angst, India needs a reliable partner on the world stage", Tillerson said, days before he departs for South Asia. "With the Trump administration, there is a tendency to take less of a "kid gloves" [cautious] approach". Promising greater prosperity and security in a "free and open Indo-Pacific", Tillerson did push India to open up its borders to more regional and United States trade. The US should collaborate with India to create a region of "peace, stability, and growing prosperity - so that it does not become a region of disorder, conflict, and predatory economics", he said.