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naa [F Ratton Tillerson sees closer India ties as foil against China US secretary elevates ally to major defence partner as part of new south Asia strategy ~~" =. RATEGICS& TUDIES yf in Fas & | savetomyer (0c TORER 2017 by Karna Mantn in Washington US secretary of state Rex Tillerson has laid out a strategie vision of a closer trading and diplomatic partnership with India to last 100 years as a bulwark against China, two weeks before Donald Trump is due to make his inaugural trip as president to Beijing, The US, which unveiled its new south Asia strategy after months of deliberations in August, has built up India’s role as a potential solution to both its longest running war in Afghanistan and concerns over the rise of China, “We think we have wisely chosen a partner in India for a strategic relationship,” Mr Tillerson told a gathering at the Center for Strategie and International Studies, He noted the Trump administration's determination to “dramatically deepen” relations with India, which he said could become the world's second-biggest economy by 2050 within 10 years. and surpass China's populati “We'll never have the same relationship with China, a non-democratie society, that we can have with a major democracy,” he said, adding he did not want the Indo- Pacific region to become hostage to disorder, conflict and “predatory economies”. ‘Mr Tillerson called for India to take on a larger security role in Asia, saying the US and India should have the world’s two greatest militaries. He said the US was ‘exploring how to frame a new security architecture in the Indo-Pacific region, potentially by expanding a trilateral grouping with the US, India and Japan to include Australia and other countries, FT Engage “We're going to continue to explore how do ‘we strengthen that architecture,” he sad. Live event: American “India and the US should be in the business Diplomacy ina of equipping other countries to defend their Disordered World sovereignty.” Join us on November 13 for a His comments come weeks after Joseph conversation about the worldin Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of the age of Trump Staff, old Congress that China will pose the greatest threat to the US by 2025. Admiral Harry Harris, commander of US Pacific Command, also framed China as a “challenge” in a lecture in Singapore on ‘Tuesday, calling for Beijing to stop “provocative actions” in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, comments ‘echoed by Mr Tillerson on Wednesday. ‘Mr Tillerson said China had repeatedly undermined the international rules-based order in the South China Sea, highlighting a theme that had appeared to take a back seat as the US attempted to cajole China to rein in North Korea’s nuclear threat ‘The US has designated India a major defence partner, elevating its status and paving the way to sell it top-flight weapons systems and share technologies. “We don’t provide that lightly, said Mr Tillerson. He added that the US had offered India a menu of defence options, including guardian UAVs, an unarmed naval drone, Fi6 and Fi8 fighters and aircraft carrier technology in transfers that represented. potential “game-changers” for US-India co-operation. “It’s all to improve their capabilities to play this important security role that we know that they want to play in the region.” ‘Mr Tillerson also warned countries that are increasingly taking up Chinese infrastructure financing at attractive rates of lending that while the US could not, compete with such low-cost loans, it could safeguard their sovereignty better than China. “What are they willing to pay to secure their sovereignty. Era co) and their future control of their economies?” he asked. PTL In recent years, India has dropped its traditional Money and Power in Trump's America. ambivalence towards the US, and is looking to co-operate swith Washington on everything from arms sales, to Afghanistan, to combating emerging Chinese power in ‘One-click sign south Asia. But the US-India relationship remains hampered by the realities of polities in the region. For example, while Lockheed Martin, the US company, is keen to sell its F16s to India, industry executives say New Delhi is, reluctant to sign such a deal given they are the bedrock of the Pakistani air force. additional reporting by Kiran Stacey in New Delhi Follow @KatrinaManson on Twitter