Eyeing China, Clinton urges India to take leader role

Published: July 20, 2011
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivers a speech at the Anna Centenary Library in Chennai on July 20, 2011. PHOTO: AFP

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivers a speech at the Anna Centenary Library in Chennai on July 20, 2011. PHOTO: AFP

CHENNAI: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged India on Wednesday to be more assertive in Asia, reflecting US desire for New Delhi to emerge as a counter-weight to Chinese power.

Speaking in the Indian city of Chennai, a southern trading port looking out towards east Asia, Clinton argued that India needed to play a bolder leadership role in building security and prosperity in the region.

“India’s leadership has the potential to positively shape the future of the Asia-Pacific… and we encourage you not just to look east, but continue to engage and act east as well,” she said in Chennai.

Washington has actively courted India, regarding the country as a natural ally because of the two countries’ shared belief in democracy, human rights and market-oriented economic policies.

“This is not a time when any of us can afford to look inward at the expense of looking outward,” she added. “This is a time to seize the emerging opportunities of the 21st century. This is a time to lead.”

China, militarily and economically superior to India, is Asia’s dominant power and has been spreading its influence into India’s immediate neighbourhood, notably in Sri Lanka and Nepal.

Beijing has also been involved in several incidents in the disputed South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas, leading to fears it is prepared to assert its power more forcefully.

Clinton stressed that India should play a role as a US ally in regional forums such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and a planned East Asia Summit later this year.

She made only one explicit mention of China in the speech, saying that she was “committed to a strong, constructive relationship” between Washington, New Delhi and Beijing.

But alongside the praise and advocacy for India, Clinton returned to the issue of New Delhi’s stance on human rights abuses in Asia, which was also highlighted by US President Barack Obama in his visit to the country last year.

India has formed close ties with military-ruled Myanmar, a northeastern neighbour, and the US believes New Delhi should exert more pressure on its generals over the country’s record.

“As India takes on a larger role throughout the Asia-Pacific, it is also taking on new responsibilities including the duty to speak out against violations of universal human rights,” she said.

Although Washington wants to promote India as a leader in Asia, some commentators have questioned the country’s willingness and capability to step into the role.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, Sadanand Dhume from the American Enterprise Institute in Washington said that India had failed to prevent a slide into authoritarianism in neighbouring Sri Lanka.

“This raises an awkward question about India’s quest for great-power status. Simply put, how can India expect more clout on the world stage when it wields so little influence in its own neighborhood?” he wrote.

On Tuesday, Clinton met Indian leaders in New Delhi including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna to push for easier access to the country’s nuclear market and closer security cooperation.

She stressed that the US-India relationship, which President Barack Obama described as the “defining partnership of the 21st century”, had made great progress in recent years, but was yet to fulfill its potential.

The top diplomat singled out civil nuclear energy as an area where the countries “can and must do more” amid frustrations that private US nuclear energy firms are losing out to their French and Russian competitors.

As well as lobbying for US commercial interests, the trip to India is also about balancing the delicate relationships Washington maintains with violence-wracked South Asian countries.

Clinton said she was “encouraged” by India and Pakistan’s decision to restart their stop-start peace process, but she also heard Indian worries that a planned US troop drawdown in Afghanistan could lead to instability.

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Reader Comments (36)

  • ashok sai
    Jul 20, 2011 - 5:30PM

    Little bit patient Ms.Clinton, everything you said will take place, evidence is ‘You are here’.


  • Jul 20, 2011 - 5:33PM

    Indians the new canon fodder for Imperialist policies yet again.


  • kamal
    Jul 20, 2011 - 5:56PM

    @Moise,you are dying to be in India’s position..rt?


  • Tab Main Bachcha Tha
    Jul 20, 2011 - 5:57PM

    No thanks Mrs Clinton Indians are not like pakistanis …………
    We don’t need f-16’s either..
    And by the way what did she say about indians software export to US??????????
    Krishna wasn’t bragging anything about that neither MMS…Recommend

  • G. Din
    Jul 20, 2011 - 6:13PM

    “…yet again.”?
    How so, smart aleck? India has the wisdom garnered over ten millenia in comparison to “some” who are little toddlers crawling on their bellies and have not found their legs yet! We might have made a mistake once but we are never likely to make it again!


  • dgupta
    Jul 20, 2011 - 6:35PM

    India is a big human rights violator and how can it to prevent human rights violators in other places?


  • anil
    Jul 20, 2011 - 6:58PM

    Ms.Cliton …..we are not USA and we don’t want to act like USA .We will only take care of our interests and our people only .Stop drone attack in afghanistan and Iraq .Stop meddling in others issues also.


  • Adeel759
    Jul 20, 2011 - 7:16PM

    India needs too take lead role being largest democracy, one of the most neutral country on the planet. It has economically, militarily, diplomatically and socially developed enough to start taking leading role. It would be good omen for south asia and south asian.Recommend

    Jul 20, 2011 - 8:16PM

    India should follow an independent foreign policy which it has been persuing so far. We need not become a stooge of US but maintain good relationship with all neighbouring countries especially China as well as continue our long standing friendship with Russia.

    We are still a long distance away in taking-over the mantle of a regional power but rather strive to improve our economy to surpass China and overcome poverty.


  • Paras Vikmani
    Jul 20, 2011 - 8:24PM

    It is true we haven’t spoken about HR violations in Sri Lanka & Myanmar.
    It is only because we are facing competition from China.
    So it is but obvious that instead of opposing those regimes,we need to support them so that we don’t lose influence altogether!


  • Raheel
    Jul 20, 2011 - 11:46PM

    @Tab Main Bachcha Tha: India ll b nothing if it doesnt have US aashirbaad and Pakistan has exact opposite of tht the US infact the whole world is working against Pakistan.


  • Dinesh
    Jul 21, 2011 - 12:15AM

    Till now India is doing fine with few mistakes. I would wish to wait for some more time (20 years). Indians by nature programmed as neutral, good relations with all big players and non-aggressors. we should maintain that status. when time becomes ours, we can play little longer, who is there to stop us? :) My next generation might be in a position to do what she says !Recommend

  • G. Din
    Jul 21, 2011 - 1:36AM

    “We will only take care of our interests and our people only .Stop drone attack in afghanistan and Iraq .Stop meddling in others issues also.”
    Ms Clinton: don’t tell us what to do but we sure will tell you what you should do! And, you better listen!


  • born_in_bombay
    Jul 21, 2011 - 2:58AM

    Why can’t eastern country form alliance like western countries. Until now western countries had their alliance to take care of their own progress and people. Now it is our time and our chance. Either we all form alliance and work together for progress or we can continue living in past and destroy this chance for ever!


  • rookie
    Jul 21, 2011 - 3:39AM

    In otherwords,,

    be a door mat to US regional ambitions,,,, subject her foreign policy to US whims

    create tensions with China and Pakistan,,.,,, Since US doesnt like both

    spend hard earned Cash on buying weapons from US… coz US is defaulting soon.


  • Jul 21, 2011 - 4:16AM

    Wrong ! Without America’s aashirwad, our economy is booming and by the way do I have to remind you that Mr Obama had taken $ 10 billions of jobs from India when he came to India. And then arrived most of the important country heads to sign lucrative deals including France, UK and Russia. So your aashirwad word doesnt sound appropriate here, although we love Obama and Mrs Clinton to bits.


  • maryam
    Jul 21, 2011 - 5:16AM

    Welfare of the people should be a country’s top priority. If the ‘role’ of ‘leader’ is to be played at this expense, its is not worth it!! And I see Indians (at least some of them) do understand this.


  • Jul 21, 2011 - 8:02AM

    To be a canon fodder? I don’t think so.


  • Jul 21, 2011 - 8:05AM

    @G. Din:
    Read history and remember when Britain used you for their imperial adventures. Don’t follow them to lizard hole they are never your friend.


  • Manoj
    Jul 21, 2011 - 9:27AM

    These words should not be taken seriously. Ms. Clinton wants India to take leadership role, where as Mr. Obama while visiting china had advised same thing to china on which India had protested.

    Yes I agree relation with USA and EU is must for India for Rapid growth in the area of R&D, science & Technology, Agriculture, Education, Dairy Production, Infrastructure. India needs huge amount of insvestment and know how in these area for employement generations and jump start the GDP growth which will lead to poverty elemination.

    Hence, This relation should be focused on above area. Defence relation should be last in the prirority. Leadership role and Permanent seat in Security council will automatically come, once India is economically a strong nation. for the next 25 years india should not think about any other thing except growth and developement in economic field. It has 300 million strong middle class, whose consuption pattern will ensure at least 30 million addition to this class every year and in 20 years time we will be at the top of the world. Our economy is based on internal counsuption and NOT export as of China and Japan, hence we are not vulnerable to pulls and pressure of our customer country and we need to keep basic economic philosphy this way only, so that world come to us for business, we do not need to go any where.


  • Pravin
    Jul 21, 2011 - 11:00AM

    On the contrary madam, most Indians are inward looking. They want faster development, spread of education and strong economy.


  • from India
    Jul 21, 2011 - 11:05AM

    on her past visit to india clinton was “seduced” by the talent of young kids here … she knows her economy will only grow if she can make use of this talent for the next 30-40 years !! however, india this time is acting perfectly like that of a businessman and not a stooge, US has the power, we have the talent and thus co-operation will now be based on a level playing field unlike the 60s and 70s – the era of brain drain …its time for action !!


  • BruteForce
    Jul 21, 2011 - 1:04PM

    The reverse brain drain is taking place. UK has no jobs, all the jobs in US are moving to India or China.

    I dont wish them ill but I want jobs to be created in India. That is going to happen and in the process jobs are gonna move from the US to India. Cant help but necessary evil.


  • G. Din
    Jul 21, 2011 - 4:17PM

    “Read history and remember when Britain used you for their imperial adventures.”
    Do tell us when Britain used us for their imperial adventures! When I referred to one mistake, I was referring to complacency we Hindus had fallen into in not arming ourselves to resist barbarous Islamic invasions. As far as British go, Hindus made a conscious choice faced with the two tormentors, the British and Islamic. We preferred -consciously- the British. And, we knew we had made the better choice although we would have preferred to rid ourselves of both. British did not make that choice for us. Muslims of India never forgave us for that. That rancor played a great part in the formation of Pakistan. Today, Pakistan is proving everyday how right we were!Recommend

  • Jul 21, 2011 - 5:07PM

    All you Indian commenters learn from the @from India comments. Dont be an imperialist pawn.


  • Sonam Shyam
    Jul 21, 2011 - 7:27PM

    Hillary is asking India to take the leaders role in the world especially in Asia. What terrible hypocrisy is this? We Indians should not forget what Wikileaks revealed regarding India’s aspiration for a UNSC seat when the same Hillary Clinton mocked India as a “Self Styled” candidate. All this complimentary lectures to India are only meant to get more jobs for the Americans. We should stand our ground and keep our national interest above everything else.


  • kamal
    Jul 21, 2011 - 7:41PM

    @Moise,we will definately learn from “from India” but you also need to do the same….


  • Naeem Siddiqui
    Jul 21, 2011 - 8:24PM

    Clintons Statement is absurd :)

    She is asking India to act as a leader which india is not capable of doing. India is a country who blames her neighbours for most of her internal problems. have fought wars with all of her neighbours.

    It looks like US want to use india against china :)Recommend

  • Jul 22, 2011 - 9:02AM

    @G. Din:
    So why is India considering sleeping with another imperialist US?


  • kamal
    Jul 22, 2011 - 1:10PM

    @Naeem Siddiqui,either you do’nt have any knowledge of history or you do’nt want to accept it.India has fought war with Pakistan/China.In all those occasions India was never an aggressor.
    India is having a capacity to be a leader or not,only time will tell but it has all the potential with its growing economical and military power.Anyway,we do’nt need any certificate from you.Just put some thought to your status in today’s world order.Recommend

  • syed kashif Hassnain rizvi
    Jul 22, 2011 - 3:12PM

    hmm now usa want from india to cover usa place in afghanistan, yes give chance to indian army to come in afghanistan and fight with talibans, russia was gone, now all nato n usa is going, may be india can handel them.india have big chance to make numbers in front of world, GO india Go :P


  • G. Din
    Jul 22, 2011 - 4:13PM

    *”So why is India considering sleeping with another imperialist US?”*
    The problem with all those who consider themselves to be oversmart is that they turn out to be utter fools. There is everything wrong with the one sentence you were able to muster.
    First, we have never considered US to be an imperialist power. How could we when we cannot thank them enough for expediting the British exit from the subcontinent? It was American pressure on Churchill that hastened our delivery from colonialism. Since you got your Pakistan by default, you wouldn’t know the suffering involved in a freedom struggle.
    Second, how can India ever forget the huge military assistance received when your “all-weather friend” stabbed a naive Nehru in the back?
    Third, is there an Indian, who would be ungrateful enough to forget how US helped his country to come in from the nuclear cold recently while Pakistan is still standing out there going …brrrrrrrrr!
    Unlike Pakistan, we do not forget the favours done to us!
    Do you keep yourself abreast with current affairs? I don’t think so. If you had, you would have observed how in recent award of contracts by India for military hardware, US did not receive even one of them. Does it look like we are “considering sleeping with another imperialist US”?
    I am sure you must feel like an utter jester- or terribly, terribly oversmart!Recommend

    Jul 22, 2011 - 7:41PM

    @syed kashif Hassnain rizvi:
    Your sarcastic comments may turn into a true prediction.


  • Jul 23, 2011 - 11:43AM

    she should think that china is more power than india


  • Jul 23, 2011 - 3:29PM

    @G. Din:
    You use US$ as reserve currency but you say you dont accept it as imperial power.

    You know this two face persona might look good in Star Plus drama but in real discussion it just shows fallacy of your argument.


  • maryam
    Aug 7, 2011 - 2:34AM

    @Pravin: I meant the same thing.


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