US does balancing act on India and China

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington: In a balancing act on the eve of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s arrival here on a state visit, the US says it looks at India and China as “two rising powers” with whom it would have to deal very closely with in the coming years.

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“India and China are two rising powers, very important players on the global scene,” State Department spokesman Robert Wood told reporters Friday when asked about Indian reaction to a US-China joint statement apparently suggesting a mediatory role for Beijing between India and Pakistan.

The statement issued Tuesday on the conclusion of President Barack Obama’s visit to China said the two countries “are ready to strengthen communication, dialogue and cooperation on issues related to South Asia and work together to promote peace, stability and development in that region.”

China is “an important nation and India and China are – they’re going to be countries that we deal very closely with in the coming years,” Wood said adding, “they’re key, and our relationships with both are growing.”

Acknowledging “there are issues of concern that we have with the Chinese,” the spokesman said: “We’ve raised them when appropriate, and at all levels of our interaction. Hopefully, China will move in the direction that we’d like to see it go.”

Similarly US had concerns with India too, he suggested. “Do we have concerns with both? Of course. I’m sure – and both have concerns with us, and that’ s why we need to work closely.”

“We have intensive dialogues with both countries,” Wood said. “And I think both countries also realise the importance of the Indo-Sino relationship, and to work toward improving that not only for regional stability, but for global stability as well.”

Asked if an agreement on reprocessing spent fuel to take the landmark India-US civil nuclear deal forward was on the cards during Manmohan Singh’s visit, he parried saying “There are a number of players involved in dealing with that question.”

But “we’ve said from the beginning that agreement is a good agreement and brings India into the non-proliferation mainstream. There are folks working on it,” Wood said.

Referring to critics’ argument that the deal gave India a “free pass”, the official said: “For one, India is a responsible player on the global scene, and that’s something that one cannot deny. India feels very strongly about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

“It’s cooperative with us in a number of fora. I think if you go back and you look at what we said at the time that the agreement was finally signed, that this was a good thing. And it will help us in our efforts to try to stem the scourge of non-proliferation.”

Asked why India was an exception to other countries that have any nuclear material, Wood reiterated, “we think that this agreement is a good one. We think it will contribute to our non-proliferation efforts around the world.”

Asked to comment on a US think tank’s call to the US to support India for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, Wood said the whole question of the expansion of the world body’s top decision making body “is one that the UN’s been dealing with for quite some time, and we’ll just have to see how that goes.”

He also declined to say if there would be an announcement about it during the Indian prime minister’s visit next week.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])