WASHINGTON DC: US President Donald Trump will be pushing for India's membership to the 21 member Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) early next week when Prime Minister Modi and President Trump will be at the APEC summit in Manila, according to Dennis Wilder, Former high ranking CIA expert on China and who is currently professor of Asian Studies at the Georgetown University in Washington, DC.
In an exclusive interview with ANI, Dennis Wilder said “This idea has been kicking around between the US, Japan, Australia and India for a while, I think President Trump and Prime Minister Modi have a very good relationship and when they meet in Manila they will discuss APEC. The US will take a stand and be vocal about India’s participation and the importance of India joining the forum”.
The support of the United States for India’s inclusion into APEC will not only be seen as a major gesture towards Prime Minister Modi’s government by the Trump administration, but will also be a move that would be a boost to India’s economy and will give India a stronger control and a better standing in its relationship with China. “It would be a step towards realising the United States’ strategic objective of involving India more fully into the region something I think that will help India to stand with China,” said Wilder.
Apart from pushing for India's full membership to the APEC the Trump administration is also keen on expanding the Malabar naval exercises which currently involve India, Japan and US to include Australia. A meeting of the India-Japan-US-Australia quadrilateral is expected in Manila on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit. These four regional democracies would ideally like to emerge as guarantors of free trade and defense cooperation across a stretch of ocean from the South China Sea, across the Indian Ocean to Africa, said Wilder.
A communique that came out of Tokyo during President Trump’s first leg of the Asia visit stated that “There was a discussion that came up on the Indo-Pacific concept and the idea that there is a need to work on infrastructure, just what the Chinese are doing on the One Belt, One Road project as a competitive strategy”, said Dennis Wilder in the interview.
“Indo- Pacific” is the new geopolitical word game that is being played out by the US lately. Trump administration officials have started to refer to Asia as the “Indo-Pacific,” rather than the “Asia-Pacific” region. A deliberate effort to change how the world strategically views the region. “The United States is an Indo-Pacific power," said a senior administration official traveling with Trump. "We've been one since the dawn of our republic. Our security and our prosperity depend on the United States maintaining access for free flow of commerce to this region, because we're a Pacific nation." In the Indo - Pacific Worldview of the Trump Administration India plays an important role.
Asked if the new policy was aimed at containing China’s rise, Mr Wilder said “certainly not” and instead emphasised the importance of India — which views China as a political rival and potential military threat — to U.S. security and prosperity. "We have strong and growing ties with India. We talk about an Indo-Pacific in part because that phrase captures the importance of India's rise,”. “If you look at President Trump’s Asia trip so far, the phrase Indo Pacific has traveled with him. It has clearly become the new American strategy "
Experts say China reads ‘Indo Pacific’ word play as a containment strategy and the Chinese have immediately jumped into calling the Indo US alliance as a containment strategy because that’s the easy way to knock it down. “It’s not a containment strategy, because there is a substantial amount of trade that China does with the US and also with India. Who is containing China? We are not containing China? The White House is very clear this is not a containment strategy, but it is a competitive strategy. Now, is that going to worry China if India and US get closer? Obviously it will”, said Wilder a former CIA expert on China.
The Trump administration is also going to offer a much closer Defence relationship to India in line with the President's Indo - Pacific Worldview. The US will offer not just military components but will also include economic, geopolitical and cultural components that will together form a stronger Washington-Delhi strategic partnership, said Dennis Wilder.It would be upto India to take the next steps towards the Asian partnership that President Trump is proposing, said the former CIA expert on China.
President Trump in his speech in Vietnam has initiated the process by praising India's growth story and this say experts is a clear signal from the U.S. Government to the Modi Government to come forward.