Washington: As world's largest democracy and given its strategic location in the Indo-Pacific geography, India has an important role to play in the Asia Pacific region, a top American diplomat has said.
Russel said the Asia Pacific rebalance strategy of the Obama Administration is not to contain China.
"Our goal is not to disadvantage China's legitimate interests. Our policies are not aimed at any one country and we don't use our relationships, including our relationship with India, as a lever or a bludgeon against China," he said.
"However, the issues at stake are global issues. As democracies and as seafaring nations, India and the United States share a common interest in respect for international law, in protection of freedom of navigation and overflight, and in the vigorous defence of unimpeded lawful commerce," he said.India, he said, is a neighbour, not only to China but also to Myanmar (Burma), and has an important east-west corridor of trade, a corridor that is important to India's economic future because of the huge opportunities for economic growth in that very dynamic region of Southeast Asia.
"India is dependent on the sea lanes, as is so many of its neighbours. And therefore, the safety and the security of the seas -- a safety and security that's predicated not on coastal naval -- navies, but on the respect for international law," the diplomat said.
Russell said the U.S. has a consultation with India, which he is looking forward to undertaking as Assistant Secretary, on the Asia-Pacific region.
"I have been in touch on the margins of multilateral meetings with my Indian counterparts. Others of our Asian allies, including and especially Japan, have intense consultations as well. The Prime Minister of Japan was recently there," he said.
"Fundamentally, the rules of the South China Sea and the East China Sea apply in the Indian Ocean and apply globally. The absolute requirement, and a requirement that is incumbent on China to embrace, to respect rules of the road, to accept that international law applies equally to big countries and small, to strong and weak, is a set of principles that I believe is essential to India.
"And that the efforts by the United States, including in the multilateral forum, to champion these principles have a significant impact and, I believe, the support of the Indian democracy," Russel said.