India enjoys strategic autonomy in ties: Blake
Washington: Despite a strategic engagement that has brought the two countries into closer convergence, the US does not always expect India to toe its line and recognises New Delhi`s strategic autonomy, a top official has said.
Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Robert Blake, said in his address to a Washington-based prestigious think-tank that the US and India can together influence the course of the 21st century.
Blake said at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace that the third round of Indo-US Strategic Dialogue is scheduled to be held on June 13, which would be co-chaired by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Minister of External Affairs S M Krishna.
Under the Strategic Dialogue, the two governments will have substantive exchanges in more than 20 distinct policy areas this year. The Strategic Dialogue, he said, has resulted in greater convergence between the two countries and improved trade and business relationship.
Blake, however, acknowledged that America`s strategic dialogue with India is different from others and conceded that the United States does not expect India to toe the American line all the time.
"Our strategic engagement with India has brought us into much closer strategic convergence on a range of important issues. We will not always agree and India will maintain its strategic autonomy. But our broadening consultations, our common values, and the bipartisan support for expanding our relations suggest that we are likely to work ever more closely in the years to come," Blake said.
"As countries willing to take responsibility for mobilising responses to the world`s challenges, the US and India are likely together to influence the course of this new century before us," Blake said.
In his remarks `The evolution of the US-India Strategic Dialogue` Blake, who has had previously served in New Delhi and was the US Ambassador to Sri Lanka, refuted the recent narrative in some circles that India-US relationship has been oversold.
"If you believe that then you haven`t been paying attention to the great strides we`ve been making over the past few years. This is a relationship that matters more than ever, and both governments are powerfully committed to meeting that challenge," he said.
Observing that the India-US partnership is much more than a quest for "the next big thing" or in diplomatic-speak "the next big deliverable," Blake said the two countries have proven year after year that their annual dialogue has produced a widening record of cooperation and dividends.
The objective of the Strategic Dialogue, he said, is to leverage all aspects of bilateral cooperation, in order to improve the lives of the nearly 1.6 billion citizens in the countries; and to push the envelope in already thriving areas of cooperation, like exceptional S&T partnerships and defence trade, and to set ambitious benchmarks for trade and economic relationship including progress on the ambitious Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) negotiations.
Commenting on the much talked about China angle in the India-US relationship, Blake said both New Delhi and Washington agree that "a zero-sum relationship" with Beijing will have negative results, and will only dampen the opportunity for a stronger, more prosperous Asia.
To this end, the US and India have called for a new trilateral dialogue with China to increase their understanding and cooperation in areas of mutual interest, he said. Praising India`s policy on Myanmar, Blake said India is not only looking east, but also assuming a larger role in the broader Asia-Pacific.
Both India and the US, he said, recognise the international significance of the waterways that connect the Indian Ocean through to the Pacific, the necessity of defending freedom of navigation, and the importance of cooperating on transnational issues that threaten the free flow of commerce, such as piracy, illegal trafficking, and terrorism.
Blake said the US is very supportive of India`s Look East Strategy, and is working together in the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum to build a regional architecture that strengthens regional norms and behaviors, upholds universal rights, and supports the peaceful settlement of disputes.