Washington: The US is “committed” to help India build its defence capabilities until it can be the “net provider of security” in the Asia-Pacific region, a senior Obama administration official has said.

“There is a recognition that as India grows and develops the capacity to protect its interests, not just in immediate region, but also broadly throughout Asia Pacific particularly in the Indian Ocean region. It is in the US interest to build India that capacity until it can truly be the net provider of security,” the official told PTI.

Modi on his arrival at Washington. The Indian PM is on a two-day tour to US. PTI

Modi on his arrival at Washington. The Indian PM is on a two-day tour to US. PTI

“Whether India decides to operate with us or not, we are committed to help India develop that capacity to protect its own interest and to ensure that the Indian Ocean region is free from the kind of threats to maritime transport, shipping, the way it is being in the South China Sea,” he said.

Enhanced global co-operation with greater role for India, strengthening of defence and security relationship and initiating steps to boost bilateral trade are believed to be on top of the agenda for US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi when they meet at the White House on Tuesday.

The official said the India-US relationship has now “emerged at the world stage” and is no longer a “restricted to narrow” South Asia or subcontinental set of issues.

“This level of engagement between an American President and an Indian Prime Minister is absolutely unprecedented,” the official said.

India recognises that it now has a tangible and active role to play in protecting its interest, the official said moments after Modi landed at the Andrews Air Force Base for his three-day visit to Washington. So “it drifted away” from previous governments insisting on values and ideals like disarmament, non-discrimination to being “much more practical” in really reaching out protecting that interest.

The first manifestation of this was at the Paris Climate Change Summit last November.

The summit was successful largely because “Modi made a personal decision” to shift away from the integrated north-south narrative to one of really joining in with other world leaders to solving these problems, the official said.

“I think the President and the Prime Minister are likely to talk about how they continue their co-operation on world problems. That would come up in the meeting on different issues. And that would be reflected in the joint statement as well,” said the official.

“Secondly the other major convergence that has taken place in recent years is in the realm of security. Again you have a country that historically was non-aligned, probably more closely aligned to the Soviets than with any other country. The US on the other hand was a major cold war protagonist and preferred operating with close alliances,” the official said.

“What we have seen from the joint strategic vision from last year is that there is really a strong convergence of perspectives on security matters including regional security matters,” the official added.

At the same time, the officials conceded that the convergence is not complete yet.

“There are areas where US still prefers to operate with partners and do operations together as we do elsewhere in the world. India is still hesitant to operate with any other country. It prefers to be autonomous and truly non-aligned,” the official said.

“There was a statement made by one of our military commanders that created kind of push back, blow back inside India. But that is the kind of issue where we are on the edge where our co-operation is today. But I think in the years to come, we would look back at this period and say well we managed to get that through as well,” observed the official, who is privy to the discussions between the two countries.

The official also conceded that America’s security partnership with Pakistan over the years still poses challenge to India-US relationship.

“But even there you would see there is going to be a much greater convergence again that no country should allow territory to use to launch terrorist attack against neighbours. And I think that is a very strong point of convergence between these two,” said the senior administration official.

Economic front is one area, where there is less convergence as compared to security and global issues, the official said.

“On economic front, historically we had a socialist command economy in India and US promoting global liberalised trade. This is an area where convergence is far from complete,” the official said.

“I think, as US is working with other countries in the Asia Pacific region, trans-pacific partnership, we have envisioned of a liberalised high standard trade and investment system in the Asia Pacific region. And India is not yet comfortable with that,” the official said.

“It (India) still has an approach that is more protectionist which is internally oriented to advance its own industry and make its own industry more competitive. Of course, we understand that. But we are working and we are intensifying discussions including in the Oval Office on Wednesday between the President and the Prime Minister, how we can come on board and find areas to c-operate on in the trade investment area,” said the official.