India a ‘bipartisan success story’: Biden’s pick for secretary of state
China presents the “most significant challenge” to the US whereas India has been a “bipartisan success story” with which the incoming Biden administration can deepen cooperation in many ways, Antony Blinken, the nominee for the post of secretary of state, has said.
Blinken, a career diplomat who served as deputy national security advisor and deputy secretary of state under former president Barack Obama, made the remarks during a hearing before the US Senate foreign relations committee to confirm him for the position.
His remarks signalled that the Biden administration is likely to adopt an approach towards India and China that is largely on the lines of the position assumed by President Donald Trump, though experts have said president-elect Joe Biden is likely to be less confrontational than his predecessor.
“As we look at China, there is no doubt that it poses the most significant challenge of any nation state to the US in terms of our interests, the interests of the American people,” Blinken said in response to questions from senators.
The US-China relationship includes “rising adversarial aspects”, some competitive aspects and some cooperative aspects when it is in the mutual interest of both countries to work together, he said.
On India, Blinken adopted a position that has been trotted out by many senior American leaders in recent years – that the relationship with New Delhi has widespread bipartisan support in Washington, or backing from both the Republican and Democratic parties.
“I think India has been very much been a bipartisan success story over successive administrations. It started...toward the end of the Clinton administration, after the nuclear tests when relations were put back on a better footing,” he said.
“I think there are many ways in which we can deepen that cooperation to pursue the path that successive administrations have put us on,” he added.
Blinken noted that Biden had, as a senator, led the efforts in the foreign relations committee to push through the India-US civil nuclear deal under then president George W Bush. “I think during the Obama administration, we deepened cooperation with India, particularly in the defence procurement area, also on information-sharing,” he said.
The Trump administration had carried forward the cooperation, including “with this concept of an Indo-Pacific and to make sure that we were working with India so that no country in the region, including China, could challenge its sovereignty and also working with it on concerns that we share about terrorism”, Blinken said.
One area with potential for greater collaboration is climate change, he said. India is poised to catch up to China in terms of the emissions over the next two or three decades, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been a strong advocate of renewable energy and technologies, creating strong potential for jointly working in this area, he said.
Blinken endorsed the tough stance taken by Trump towards China but said he differed on the methods adopted by the outgoing president in a number of areas. The US has to start by approaching China “from a position of strength, not weakness” and this has to be done by working with allies, leading international institutions, and standing up for values such as human rights in Xinjiang and the trampling of democracy in Hong Kong, he said.
“I also believe President Trump was right in taking a tougher approach to China. I disagree very much with the way that he went about it in a number of areas but the basic principle was the right one and I think that’s actually helpful to our foreign policy,” he said.
For decades, China had a policy of “hiding their hand and biding their time” in terms of asserting its interests beyond the country’s borders, but following the rise of President Xi Jinping, the “hiding and biding has gone away and they are much more assertive in making clear that they seek to become in effect the leading country in the world and sets the norms”, Blinken said.
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