“US and Indian interests powerfully converge in the Asia-Pacific, where India has much to give and much to gain,” Obama’s National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon said in a speech on US policy in the Asia-Pacific region at Asia Society in New York Monday evening.
Donilon spoke about the ties with Pakistan only in response to a question from his audience. He made no mention of Pakistan or for that matter Afghanistan in the course of his 25-minute prepared address.
Asked about his assessment of the ties with Pakistan following the recent problems, the national security adviser acknowledged the ‘difficult issues’ between them, but said they have moved on and were now discussing ‘more fundamental strategic interests that we have in common’, including Afghanistan.
“We both have in common a stable Afghanistan at the end of this process and we are working together on that,” Donilon said. “We both have in common the fight against extremist elements, and we continue to work on that.”
“We have had with Pakistan a very important partnership in the counterterrorism area,” he said. “They have been an important partner of the United States in our effort against the most extreme elements,” Donilon said, pointing out that the Pakistanis have suffered thousands of casualties in the battle against extremists.
“We have had, as you might imagine, as has been clear, some difficult issues, but I do think we are at a point here where we don’t have a crisis hanging over the relationship. We continue to work intensively with the Pakistanis on the kinds of issues, and we’ll continue to do so,” Donilon said, referring to the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011, the air attack on Salala along the Pak-Afghan border in which 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed and the subsequent closure of the ground routes to Afghanistan.
“We have worked through these issues. I think, actually are now at a point where we’re having broader conversations without the overlay of some crisis, and talking about kind of more fundamental strategic interests that we have in common,” Donilon added.
About the relationship with New Delhi, the national security adviser said in his prepared address, “Southeast Asia begins in Northeast India, and we welcome India’s efforts to ‘Look East’, from supporting reforms in Burma (Myanmar) to trilateral cooperation with Japan to promoting maritime security,” he said. In the past year, for example, India-ASEAN trade increased by 37 per cent to $80 billion, Donilon noted.
As part of US strategy for the Asia-Pacific, Donilon noted that Obama “considers US relations with India - the world’s largest democracy - to be ‘one of the defining partnerships of the twenty-first century’.”
“From Prime Minister (Manmohan) Singh’s visit in 2009 to the President’s trip to India in 2010, the United States has made clear at every turn that we don’t just accept India’s rise, we fervently support it,” he said.
Donilon said the United States is implementing a comprehensive, multidimensional strategy to pursue its vision in the region “to sustain a stable security environment and a regional order rooted in economic openness, peaceful resolution of disputes, and respect for universal rights and freedoms.”
Five key pillars of this strategy were: strengthening alliances; deepening partnerships with emerging powers; building a stable, productive, and constructive relationship with China; empowering regional institutions; and helping to build a regional economic architecture that can sustain shared prosperity.
The Obama Administration has worked to make its rebalance to the Asia-Pacific a reality because the region’s success in the century ahead - and the United States’ security and prosperity in the 21st century - still depend on the presence and engagement of the United States in Asia, he said.
However rebalancing does not mean diminishing ties to important partners in any other region, containing China or seeking to dictate terms to Asia, Donilon said.
In response to a question, Donilon played down what a questioner called was a ‘harsh’ statements from President Hamid Karzai that the US was ‘colluding’ with the Taliban to destabilise Afghanistan, saying that transitions were always very difficult and complicated. But, he said, the US was target and would withdraw by December 2014 leaving the Afghan forces in charge of security.