Pence says USA committed to Indo-Pacific, not seeking control

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong noted that last month Asean defence ministers adopted the world's first multilateral air guidelines aimed at managing unintentional encounters between military aircraft

Key players in Asean such as Singapore, in fact, took the lead in engaging India on economic and security issues more than two decades ago and, subsequently, getting India to join the East Asia Summit.

"Spoke about our shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific & reaffirmed our commitment to strengthen security and counterterrorism cooperation and coordination", Pence tweeted after his meeting with Modi.

He said Washington had taken action to promote this vision, including steps to spur private investment in infrastructure and a pursuit of trade that is "free, fair, and reciprocal".

There was some discussion on the issue of terrorism.

There was also some discussion on the issue of terrorism and Pence referred to the upcoming 10th anniversary of the Mumbai terror attacks, known as 26/11, later this month.

PM Modi also reminded the USA vice-president that in one way or another all the traces and all the leads in global terror attacks ultimately lead to a "single source and single place of origin", in an apparent reference to Pakistan. And, in that context, Modi pointed out that "the mainstreaming of the people involved in Mumbai terror attacks in a political process, which had taken place in a recent election in Pakistan, should be a matter of serious concern not just to the two countries, that is, India and the USA, but to the worldwide community", Gokhale said. Numerous ten members of the Association of South East Asian Nations perceive India as a much-needed counterbalance to China, though their leaders are unlikely to say so in public, given the large Chinese presence in the economies of several Asean states. They also discussed counter-terrorism cooperation and ways to boost trade, with India indicating interest in expanding the newly initiated imports of oil and gas from the U.S., now valued at US$4 billion (S$5.5 billion).

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India could take a page out of China's playbook by speeding up work on long-gestating connectivity projects, such as the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway, and building new trade and transport linkages with all the Asean states.

Modi pointed out that in the last two years, since Trump assumed office, USA exports to India have grown by 50%, making India perhaps the only big country with which the U.S. has managed to reduce its trade deficit significantly.

Under President Donald Trump, the United States has pushed for a "free and open" Indo-Pacific partly in response to China's growing footprint in the region.

The White House said last week that Pence and Modi would discuss the India-US defence cooperation and the bilateral relationship during their meeting in Singapore. "Not only that India is a substantial market but because the way we are placed regionally we can become a hub for exports to the rest of the region", Gokhale said. "We must extend the security of insurance and pension to more than a billion workers in the informal sectors worldwide, who still do not have it", Prime Minister Modi said in his speech.

Giving details of the meeting, foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale told reporters that Mr Modi also hoped the United States would take into account the rich contribution of Indian-Americans in every sphere while deciding on the H-1B visa issue.

Pence acknowledged that India had made substantial progress economically as well as diplomatically in regional and worldwide affairs, Gokhale said.

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