New Delhi: The US has reassured India about Washington’s commitment to their strategic partnership amid key changes in President Donald Trump’s security and foreign affairs teams.
The new US national security adviser John Bolton spoke to his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval on Wednesday and US ambassador Kenneth Juster met Indian foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale this week, a person familiar with the developments said on Thursday.
The context and content of both conversations were to underline continuing US commitment to ties with India, the person cited above said.
Bolton took office earlier this month replacing H.R. McMaster, while Mike Pompeo, former Central Intelligence Agency chief, is expected to be confirmed as secretary of state in the coming days, taking the place of Rex Tillerson who was fired by Trump in March.
With the departure of Tillerson and McMaster, questions have emerged about how the transition would affect US policy toward South Asia and the Indo-Pacific, and specifically India.
One of the immediate consequences of Tillerson’s departure was the postponement of the India-US ‘2+2’ dialogue —which brings together the US secretaries for defence and state and their Indian counterparts. This dialogue format was to replace the Strategic and Economic Dialogue that was in place under the previous Obama administration.
McMaster was the first member of the Trump security cabinet to visit New Delhi in April last year. During his visit, he reaffirmed the importance of the US-India strategic relationship and India’s designation as a major defence partner—a classification made by the Obama administration.
Tillerson is remembered in India for his speech in October on US policy toward the Indo-Pacific region—a large geographical swathe straddling the west coast of the US to Africa—where he had spoken of a key role for India in stabilizing the region. Contrasting India and China, Tillerson had said that the latter had risen “less responsibly, at times undermining the international rules-based order, even as countries like India operate within a framework that protects other nations’ sovereignty".
Both McMaster and Tillerson were seen as key in formulating Trump’s South Asia strategy, that was unveiled in August and which again outlined a key role for India in stabilizing Afghanistan while slamming Pakistan for sheltering terrorists.
With the conversations, some of the doubts have been put to rest, the person cited above said, adding that the key departments of the US government are focused on the US-India partnership. With concerns over the rise of China plaguing many countries in the region, the US-India relationship is at the core of the Indo-Pacific strategy, the person added.