Hillary Clinton Urges India to Lead in China’s Neighborhood

Jul 20, 2011 4:11pm

ABC News' Kirit Radia (@KiritRadia_ABC) reports:

“It’s a time to lead,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared today in a speech in Chennai, India today that urged the South Asian giant to expand its influence beyond its immediate neighborhood, particularly in East Asia where China has dominated regional politics.

“India’s leadership will help to shape positively the future of the Asia Pacific.  That’s why the United States supports India’s Look East policy, and we encourage India not just to look east, but to engage east and act east as well,” Clinton said.

She never explicitly singled China out as the target, but her repeated references to the need for India to export its values in the region were clear.

Clinton spoke of “India’s growing leadership role in the world” and suggested India’s democratic values could “inspire others to follow a similar path of openness and tolerance.”

The idea of building up India in the face of Chinese power is not new. In 2005 President Bush decided to pursue a civil nuclear deal with India, in large part because they hoped it would allow India to grow into a regional power to counter Chinese influence in Asia. President Obama has backed India obtaining a permanent seat on the UN Security Council for much the same reason.

That Clinton chose to give the speech in Chennai was no accident. She used the city as an example of India’s historical role in East Asia.

“In this port city, looking out at the Bay of Bengal and beyond to the nations of East and Southeast Asia, we are easily reminded of India’s historic role in the wider region.  For thousands of years, Indian traders have sailed those waters of Southeast Asia and beyond,” Clinton said.

Clinton also announced that the U.S. would soon hold three-way talks with India and Japan, another counterweight to China in the region.

This week Clinton led a senior delegation of American officials to the latest Strategic Dialogue with Indian officials in New Delhi, the latest such talks aimed at cementing relations between the two countries. Still, ties have been strained recently over a disagreement about the implementation of the civil nuclear deal. After the U.S. expended the diplomatic capital to obtain the necessary waivers to allow the sale of nuclear material to India, since it has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Indian politicians have placed restrictions on the purchases that favor state-run companies in France and Russia and put American companies at a disadvantage. That matter was discussed during Clinton’s talks in New Delhi this week.

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