Press Trust of india

Trump admn proposes $1.5 billion fund to ensure Indo-Pacific is free of ‘malign Chinese influence’

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By:  Lalit K Jha

Washington, Feb 11 :  The Trump administration has proposed USD 1.5 billion in budgetary allocation for 2021 fiscal for the strategic Indo-Pacific, which it said was part of its efforts to ensure that the region remains free, open, and independent of “malign Chinese influence”.

China has been trying to spread its influence in the resource-rich Indo-Pacific region. To counter Beijing, the US has been pushing for a broader role by India in the strategically important region.

Beijing lays claim to huge swathes of the sea in the South China Sea where it has set up military facilities and artificial islands.

The US has long accused China of bullying Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei who have contesting claims over the South China Sea.

The White House in its budgetary proposal for the financial year 2021, beginning October 1, 2020, said, the future of the Indo-Pacific, which contains roughly half the world’s population and many of the fastest-growing economies, is critical to US security and long-term economic interests.”

“The Budget provides USD1.5 billion for the Indo-Pacific, reflecting a strong Administration commitment to ensuring that the region remains free, open, and independent of malign Chinese influence,” it said.

This funding supports democracy programmes, strengthens security cooperation, improves economic governance and facilitates private sector-led economic growth, the White House said.

A total of USD 30 million has been included in the budget for the global engagement centre dedicated to countering foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation from China, it added.

The budget also provides USD 0.8 billion for the International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) for private sector development internationally to support corporate growth in less-developed countries and to provide a transparent, high-quality alternative to “predatory Chinese international lending” in the Indo-Pacific and other strategic regions, it said.

In the budgetary proposals, the Pentagon alleged that Beijing continued to violate the sovereignty of Indo-Pacific nations and expand its control abroad under the pretense of the Belt and Road infrastructure investments.

According to the Pentagon, in the Indo-Pacific, the Department of Defense is strengthening and evolving US partnerships into a security architecture that helps uphold a “free and open” order.

“With India, DoD is expanding military-to-military cooperation and improving interoperability, including by establishing a new tri-service amphibious exercise, TIGER TRIUMPH,” the Pentagon said.

The US, India and several other world powers have been talking about the need to ensure a free, open and thriving Indo-Pacific in the backdrop of China flexing its military muscles in the region, which is a large swathe of land and sea stretching all the way from the west coast of the US to the shores of east Africa.

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