Tillerson Seeks Closer US-India Ties to Bolster Stability

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In meetings with Pakistan's prime minister, foreign minister, and senior military officials, "secretary Tillerson will discuss our joint efforts to fight terrorist groups that threaten regional peace and stability and how Pakistan can support our effort to reach a peaceful solution in Afghanistan", said the U.S. state department spokeswoman.

The visit to Pakistan is part of Secretary Tillerson's first visit to Asia, which will also take him to India, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Geneva, Spokesman Heather Nauert told a briefing at the State Department.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump will visit a number of Asian countries, including China, in November. That includes increasing pressure on India's rival, Pakistan, to stop supporting terrorist groups that the USA says continue to foment conflict.

"The United States seeks constructive relations with China, but we will not shrink from China's challenges to the rules-based order, and where China subverts the sovereignty of neighboring countries and disadvantages the USA and our friends", Tillerson told the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"China, while rising alongside India, has done so less responsibly, at times undermining the global, rules-based order", the United States diplomat said. The official said the US envisions an Asia-Pacific region anchored by four countries: Australia, India, Japan and the U.S.

Tillerson took a more strident tone on China.

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"For many decades the United States has supported China's rise", the official said. He said the USA has begun "quiet conversations" with countries in the region about other forms of financing.

While Tillerson criticised Pakistan for not taking an action against the terrorist groups based in the country, he criticised China for violating worldwide law and norms in South China Sea. It also hopes for a "healthy and sound" China-US relationship.

Tillerson did not directly address the stand-off but vowed that Washington "won't shrink from China's challenges to the rules-based order, or where China subverts the sovereignty of neighbouring countries". "India is a partner for peace in Afghanistan, and we welcome its assistance efforts", he said. He said China was offering financing that saddles countries with enormous debt and triggers for repayment that lead to default.

He explained why the USA and India are "two bookends of stability on either side of the globe", or, simply put, natural partners.

A senior State Department official told reporters that the speech was meant to map out a strategy for US-India relations for the next century, in which the region's leading democracies - also including Japan and Australia - blunt China's growing influence and challenges to the rules-based order.

"The challenges and the dangers we face are substantial", Tillerson said.