Washington: Ahead of US President Donald Trump's maiden Asia trip, the White House said today that India plays a "big role" in the Indo-Pacific region.
Later this week, President Trump embarks on a 12-day visit to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and Philippines. Though Donald Trump will not be visiting India this time, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters at her daily news conference when asked about India's role in the Indo-Pacific region that "It (India) certainly plays a big role."
"Does this administration see India as a pivotal part of your strategy when it comes to the Asia-Pacific more broadly?" she was asked.
At a separate news conference, State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert told reporters: "I can tell you that we have a close relationship with India, that we have a lot of areas of common interest, including -- we're both democracies; we're both large countries. They're an enormous country."
"India can bring so much, not only to the region, but to the world. In addition, many American jobs, through greater trade and cooperation with that country," she said, referring to the major India policy speech given by the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last month, soon after which he travelled to India.
Ms Nauert was asked why Donald Trump was not going to India on his maiden Asia visit, if the country is so important.
"I think that would be a different kind of trip for the President, tagging India... -- along to that trip. I think he's got a pretty hefty schedule, but I don't want to speak on behalf of the White House," she said.
Asked if Rex Tillerson's India policy was a China containment policy, the State Department spokesperson said the top American diplomat had said this before with China "privately".
"I think the Secretary -- what he said in his speech -- about China, in his speech about India, was something that the Secretary has said with China privately before. So some of those in the past have been private conversations, and now, they're just becoming more public conversations," she said.
The spokersperson said that North Korea is a top issue and Donald Trump will discuss it with China. "But let me just say, I know that the president is very much looking forward to his trip to China. It is going to be a lengthy trip, a robust trip. And one of the top issues that will be discussed with China is certainly the DPRK," the spokesperson said.