US Asia policy: full embrace for India, competition with China

The United States looks at its relations with the two Asian giants entirely differently, taking India as a "strategic partner".

Washington: The United States looks at its relations with the two Asian giants entirely differently, taking India as a "strategic partner" with whose rise it has given "full embrace" and China as a rival superpower with whom it needs to "build a relationship".

The contrasting vision was laid out by a top aide of President Barack Obama saying while it has "given a full embrace of India`s rise,"its ties with Beijing were more complex with "elements of both cooperation and competition."

The contrast came out as the president`s national security advisor Tom Donilon this week outlined Obama`s Asia Policy ahead of Obama`s first foreign trip after re-election to South-East Asia at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

"The relationship with India is obviously rooted in history and it`s rooted in a shared system of democracy. And it`s a unique relationship that we`re building out. It has different aspects to it," he said in response to a searching question from an Indonesian diplomat.

"The relationship with China is more complex." Donilon said. "We`re trying to build a relationship - and a complicated relationship, multidimensional relationship that`s profoundly important to both nations and to the world, between two systems that are very different."

Elaborating further Donilon said: With respect to India, we have given a full embrace of India`s rise. The president went to India on a three-day trip, as you know, and stood beneath the picture of Mahatma Gandhi, and called for India`s membership in a reformed Security Council.

"It`s a full embrace of India`s rise as a partner. And again, as two of the most important democracies in the world, it`s an important strategic thrust for us as well," he said

Noting that there was "more of an element of competition" in Donilon`s description of US relationship with China which was not there in case of India," Indonesia`s ambassador to US Dino Patti Djalal had asked: "Is it too much for us in Southeast Asia, for example, to expect that one day there will be a strategic partnership between US and China?"

In the case of China, Donilon responded: "We`re trying to build a relationship - a stable, productive, constructive relationship between the United States and China where there are elements of competition."

"We`re trying to build a relationship between China and the United States against a backdrop of theoreticians who say that this is not possible to do; that history would point you to the inevitability of conflict between a rising power and a status quo power," he said. "We don`t believe that."

"But there are challenges, obviously,... of the kind of relationship that we`re trying to build, which is a unique setting, if you will, between the United States and China," Donilon said. "But we`re committed to doing that. I think the Chinese leadership is committed to doing that as well."

Earlier during his speech, Donilon noted as part of forging deeper partnership with emerging powers "we`ve deepened our ties with India."

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh`s visit to Washington in 2009 "was the first official state visit of the Obama administration, building on President Obama`s trip to India- a really historic trip to India in 2010, and our US-India strategic dialogue," he noted.

"We see India as a strategic partner for the 21st century, and as such, we welcome India`s efforts to look east and play a larger role in Asia, including in the Indian Ocean," Donilon said.