NEW DELHI: In his last visit to South East Asia as the President of the United States, Barack Obama on Wednesday welcomed India’s ‘growing’ role in the region, specifically in the presence of China. During his two terms at the helm of affairs in the White House, President Obama has effected a rebalancing of the US’ foreign policy with 60 per cent of its strategic assets being redeployed in the Asia-Pacific region.
“We’ve also forged deeper ties with emerging economies and emerging powers….We’ve elevated our ties with India across the board, and we welcome India’s growing role in the Asia Pacific,” Obama said at the ASEAN Summit at Vientiane, Laos. India, under the UPA Government, had received the US’ military strategy for Asia-Pacific with apprehensions even as Washington tried to woo New Delhi to embrace a greater role in the region.
However, the countries overcame the “hesitations of history” as Prime Minister Narendra Modi pushed for greater engagement with South East Asian countries even as the ‘Look East’ policy was renamed ‘Act East’ policy. In sync with its aspirations, India set out to augment the military capacity of the South East Asian countries that serve as a gateway to the strategic South China Sea — which is becoming a ground for competition for India, China, US and Japan among other countries. Modi is also present in Laos.
In a message aimed at China’s aggressive posturing on the South China Sea, President Obama said: “We believe that bigger nations should not dictate terms to smaller nations, and that all nations should play by the same rules…. Across the region, including in the East and South China seas, the US will continue to fly and sail and operate wherever international law allows, and support the right of all countries to do the same.”