Washington: The concept of the Indo-Pacific has incorporated India into the larger solution and the Trump administration is developing new arrangements to coordinate with like-minded partners like the Quad countries, a top American diplomat has told lawmakers.

In November 2017, India, the US, Australia and Japan gave shape to the long-pending "Quad" Coalition to develop a new strategy with an aim to contain China's growing influence and develop a new strategy for keeping the critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific free of any influence.

The Indo-Pacific is a biogeographic region, comprising the Indian Ocean and the western and central Pacific Ocean, including the South China Sea. China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam claim parts of it.

"You've seen India has come on very strong in this regard. The concept of the Indo-Pacific has incorporated India into the larger solution," David Stilwell, the Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing on 'Engagement With China in the Indo-Pacific', on Thursday.

He said the US was reinforcing its security commitments.

Security assistance helps partners protect their sovereignty and maritime resources, Stillwell said.
"We have doubled development assistance to Pacific Island partners through the Pacific pledge. We are developing new arrangements to coordinate with like-minded partners. In September 2013, the first quad ministerial-level meeting of the United States, Australia, India, and Japan marked a new milestone in Indo-Pacific diplomatic engagement," he said.

Stillwell said that the resilience of the strength of America's global alliances and partnerships was paramount to addressing strategic competition with China, and in no region is this more true than the Indo-Pacific.

"Our Indo-Pacific vision is about supporting the sovereignty, autonomy, and pluralism of Indo-Pacific states facing Beijing's attempts to dominate the region. We support a region that is open to trade and investment, free from coercion and security," he said.

"The United States, in a diverse cohort of allies and partners, now speaks clearly in terms of the Indo-Pacific. Similar concepts have been put forward by Japan, India, Australia, Taiwan, and South Korea, as well as by ASEAN in the ASEAN outlook for the Indo-Pacific, showing remarkable alignment across our partners," Stillwell said.

The US has advanced its economic initiatives in lockstep with allies and partners in areas like high standard infrastructure, energy security, investment screening, among others.

"We are strengthening commercial diplomacy to boost alternatives to PRC (People's Republic of China) predatory economics that leaves countries saddled with unsustainable debt and vulnerable to political and economic pressures," he said.

To promote good governance, the US launched the Indo-Pacific Transparency Initiative two years ago, which has programmes focused on particular vectors of Chinese influence, including corruption, disinformation, and information control and coercive financing, he said.

Senator James Risch, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said that China's primary foreign policy objective was to achieve regional supremacy in the Indo-Pacific and then to use that dominant position to propel itself into becoming a leading world power.

Ranking Member Bob Menendez said that China was now displaying global ambitions.

"I think many on this committee have concerns that the administration's strategies and policies to deal with this new China still fall well short of answering the enormity of the challenge,” he said.

"China today, led by the Communist Party and propelled by Xi Jinping's hyper-nationalism, is unlike any challenge we have faced as a nation before. As we will have an opportunity to discuss today, China is more active and more assertive around the globe than ever before," Menendez said.

He said that 5G is perhaps the best example where the United States did not adequately emphasise European alternatives to Huawei while simply pressuring its allies.

Senator Mitt Romney said that geopolitically Chinese are rising, and not the United States. “They are lining up people to support them. People who in the past have not supported them are now coming to their side. That's in part because they see where the power goes. Friends often go where they believe their interest is going to be best protected. As China becomes stronger, we may find that they are able to collect something which they've never had before, which is France,” he said.
“I think President Trump was right to confront China and to push back against their trade practices. I think he made a mistake by not doing so in collaboration with our allies and being able to have much more clout pushing against them,” Romney said and praised Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to have spoken so forcefully to awaken allies to the threat posed by China and to encourage collaboration with them.

Romney asked if US allies and other nations that follow the rule of law, whether, you know, India, Japan, South Korea, the EU, are poised to combine at some point and to develop a collaborative trade policy which will exert such pressure on China that they will be diverted from the course and move towards comporting with the international order.