Trump fires Secretary of State Tillerson

Trump reportedly fired Rex Tillerson on Twitter. Ouch. https://t.co/kEM1bb3MB5 pic.twitter.com/5ULFgXy00L

— Mashable (@mashable) March 13, 2018 The change at the State Department is unlikely to have any impact on India as the influential national security establishment have signed off on Trump’s elevation of India’s role in South Asia and the Indo-Pacific region and the approaches to those regions in general. Although the announcement came abruptly in a tweet, Trump told reporters later: “Rex and I have been talking about this for a long time. “We got along, actually, quite well but we disagreed on things,” he said. “When you look at the Iran deal, I think it’s terrible, I guess he thought it was OK. I wanted to either break it or do something and he felt a little bit differently.” “With Mike, Mike Pompeo, we have a very similar thought process,” Trump said. “I think it’s going to go very well.” Tillerson’s ouster follows the resignation of Trump’s top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, who resigned as the head of the National Economic Council this month. Cohn, a former investment banker, opposed Trump’s policy of imposing taxes on steel and aluminum imports, highlighting the ideological splits in the administration between the hardliners and the pragmatists. Tillerson, a former oil executive, was long considered out of the policy loop made up of hardliners, and confirming it, Trump said they did not discuss his planned summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the biggest foreign policy initiative of his administration so far. “No, I really didn’t discuss it very much with him, honestly,” Trump said. “I made that decision by myself. Rex wasn’t, as you know, in this country. I made the North Korea decision with consultation from many people but I made that decision by myself.” Tillerson was on a tour of Africa to make amends for Trump’s reported statements denigrating the continent and cut short his trip and returned home. Illness was given last Friday as the official reason for his return. Despite the humiliating firing with a tweet and calling back from a diplomatic tour, Trump asserted: “I actually got along well with Rex but really it was a different mindset, a different thinking.” Trump named Gina Haspel as the CIA Director, a historic appointment that puts a woman at the head of the intelligence agency for the first time. Pompeo and Haspel will have to be confirmed in their new posts by the Senate, a process during which the administration’s security and foreign policies will be under scrutiny. Tillerson was upstaged by United Nations Permanent Representative Nikki Haley, a member of Trump’s cabinet, on many of Trump’s international priorities like Iran, North Korea, the Middle East and Afghanistan and Pakistan. The first Indian American cabinet official worked in concert with the national security establishment on these issues, sidelining Tillerson. On Monday, she visited the UN with National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster to brief Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and members of the Security Council on Washington’s initiative on Pyongyang, a job more likely to have been conducted by a Secretary of State in previous administrations. The former head of the oil giant Exxon Mobil, Tillerson, was picked for the nation’s top diplomatic job by Trump last year to further US economic interests, an initial priority. However, the priorities have shifted with North Korea, Iran and the Middle East taking centre stage. Trump wants to junk the Iran nuclear deal, the capstone diplomatic achievement of his predecessor Barack Obama. He has reluctantly certified twice to Congress that Iran was complying with the terms of the nuclear agreement reached with it by the US along with the other Security Council Permanent Members and Germany in 2015. Washington’s European allies – and China and Russia – stand behind the agreement. Although Washington acting unilaterally would end it, Washington would be isolated, a prospect Trump would not mind. In contrast to Iran and the Middle East — where he upset the status quo by recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Trump — has made a dramatic move on North Korea after months of vitriolic exchanges with Kim Jong Un, by agreeing to a summit. The foreign policy-national security establishment is now headed by people with military backgrounds. Pompeo was a cavalry officer before entering politics as a member of the Republican Party’s right wing and getting elected to Congress. McMaster is also currently a Lieutenant General, although the National Security Adviser post is held usually by civilians. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis is a retired Marine Corps general. Trump’s Chief of Staff John Kelly is a former general, and even Haley has a military connection through her husband Michael, an Army National Guard officer, who has served in Afghanistan. Haspel is a career CIA officer who was promoted to deputy CIA director last year. (IANS)]]>

No pe-conditions for N Korea talks: Tillerson

The US is ready to open nuclear disarmament talks with North Korea, without preconditions, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said. “Let’s just meet and let’s talk about the weather if you want,” he said on Tuesday at a policy forum in Washington, BBC reported. His statement appeared to shift the US position away from previous demands that North Korea must first disarm. North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons technology has led to heavy US-led sanctions against the regime. Elsewhere in his remarks, Tillerson insisted that the economic and diplomatic sanctions would continue until “the first bomb drops”. Diplomatic relations between the two nations have been strained by recent North Korean missile tests, and by a war of words between US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un. Speaking at the Atlantic Council policy forum, Tillerson said that the US “simply cannot accept a nuclear armed North Korea”. But appearing to soften the US stance to talks, he said: “Let’s just meet and let’s talk about the weather if you want and talk about whether it’s going to be a square table or a round table if that’s what you’re excited about. “Then we can begin to lay out a map, a road map, of what we might be willing to work towards.” Tillerson also said that China had made contingency plans to accommodate North Korean refugees in the event of a conflict.

(IANS)  
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J&K mediation offer is sting in Tillerson tale

Had a wonderful meeting with US Secretary of State, Mr. Rex Tillerson. We discussed various aspects of India-US ties https://t.co/63go1Qnbi8 pic.twitter.com/zUdmzclAP0

— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) October 25, 2017 This would be the third foray by President Donald Trump and his administration into a touchy terrain from where three of his four immediate predecessors have beaten a retreat, and one, George W. Bush pragmatically stayed away from. With Washington now promoting a larger global role for India as an anchor of stability in the Indo-Pacific region and as an emerging counterweight to China, the Trump administration could be looking for a way to lighten the drag of Pakistani problems on India. Tillerson’s statement came despite a long history of New Delhi firmly rebuffing involvement by anyone in what it holds is a matter solely between the two neighbours. New Delhi brandishes the 1972 Simla Agreement between then Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi of India and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan to strenuously oppose any third party involvement in disputes with Islamabad. In the pact signed after the Bangladesh War, the neighbours agreed to settle disputes only by themselves, though Pakistan has since sought to involve others. Tillerson said in Geneva that during his Islamabad visit Pakistanis mentioned their differences with India but did not talk much about US-India ties. Asked about Islmabad’s reactions to Washington’s plans to deepen relations with India, he said, “There was not a lot of discussion about that, other than they clearly have their differences with India, they have their concerns along their border with India.” In what may be a sop to Pakistan, he added, “There are legitimate concerns on both sides of that border as well.” During his campaign for the presidency, Trump had said, “I would love to be the mediator or arbitrator.” But he carefully prefaced it with the caveat, “If they wanted me to.” “If we could get India and Pakistan getting along, I would be honored to do that,” he said. “That would be a tremendous achievement.” In April, the US Permanent Representative to the UN Nikki Haley said about India-Pakistan tensions, “I would expect that the administration is going to be in talks and try and find its place to be a part of that (process) because it’s concerned about the situation.” And heightening expectations, she added, “And also (I) wouldn’t be surprised if the President participates as well.” India had swiftly rejected the offer, stating its position that any bilateral redressal of India-Pakistan issues can “only be held in an environment free of terror and violence”. For all the good intentions of US presidents and UN secretary-generals, it is not just India’s opposition to third party involvement that works against them, but Pakistan’s powerful military syndicate buttressed by its history. Kashmir, which India considers an integral and immutable part of India, is the core issue for which there can be no solution without Pakistan’s military’s agreement. Keeping the Kashmir issue boiling – despite failing to get any active diplomatic support for its cause from anywhere in years – is the very source of the Pakistani military establishment’s power. Dragging the US or others into it is but Islamabad’s ploy to try to weaken India’s resolve – a ploy New Delhi understands. The last – and perhaps the only – third party mediation was in 1966 when Soviet Prime Minister Alexei Kosygin brought Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri of India and Pakistani President Ayub Khan to Tashkent after the 1965 war. They signed the Tashkent Declaration that was to be the framework for peace, undertaking to improve relations between the neighbours and not to interfere in each other’s internal affairs. But it unravelled in five years. Starting on a path strewn with hubris and failures, former President George H.W. Bush — the “senior” — tried to mediate between India and Pakistan in 1990 through his Deputy National Security Adviser Robert Gates to defuse mounting tensions as both countries massed troops along their border. Gates is reported to have facilitated exchange of information between the two sides that de-escalated that particular tension — a claim India disputes. However, Gates, who later became Defence Secretary under President Barack Obama, did not try to mediate the broader issues like Kashmir. Bill Clinton, who succeeded the senior Bush, suggested in 2006 that Washington seek a role in the neighbour’s dispute. “I think the United States should be more involved there, even though I think they’ll have to work out this business of Kashmir between themselves,” he said. But he was roundly rebuffed by Jaswant Singh, who was the External Affairs Minister. George W. Bush, who followed him as President, however, was more attuned to New Delhi’s sensitivities and took a realistic approach refusing to get involved in India-Pakistan disputes. Condoleeza Rice, who was then his National Security Adviser, rejected in 2002 Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s pleas for mediation. “The USA is always prepared to help in any way but we don’t believe this is something that mediation or facilitation is going to help,” said Rice, who later became the Secretary of State. Barack Obama backtracked and said after his 2008 election, “We should probably try to facilitate a better understanding between Pakistan and India and try to resolve the Kashmir crisis so that they can stay focused not on India, but on the situation with those militants.” But the idea was smothered by India’s opposition – only for his successor’s administration to release yet another trial balloon. (with IANS) // ]]>

'India could be conduit for talks with N. Korea'

We don’t want war with North Korea: Mattis

US Defence Secretary James Mattis on Friday said that the American government does not want a war with North Korea, but rather initiate a process to achieve a complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. Mattis made the remarks on the first day of his trip to South Korea, during his visit to a border guard post and the Joint Security Area, which is part of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that divides the two Koreas. Standing several meters away from North Korea, he urged the Kim Jong-un regime to halt provocations that threaten others “with catastrophe”, reports Yonhap News Agency “As Secretary of State (Rex) Tillerson has made clear, our goal is not war but rather the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” the Pentagon chief said at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the DMZ. He stressed his unprecedented DMZ visit highlights the “stark difference” between the two Koreas. North Korea is ridden with an “oppressive regime” that shackles its people, while the South boasts a vibrant, thriving democracy and free society, he pointed out. In response to Mattis, South Korean Defence Minister Song Young-moo emphasised that North Korea’s nuke and ballistic missiles are “weapons that can’t be used”. “If it does, it will face retaliation by the strong combined force of South Korea and the US,” he said. The minister said he and the secretary are here together to confirm the ironclad alliance “without a single inch of error”. He called on Pyongyang to return to inter-Korean dialogue as early as possible. Song said Panmunjom was once a venue for talks between the two Koreas and armistice negotiations that effectively ended the 1950-53 Korean War. “But now, all dialogue is in a state of being severed,” he added. Earlier on Friday, Mattis visited two US military installations, Osan airbase and the Yongson garrison in Seoul. The secretary had come to South Korea from Thailand, where he attended the funeral of late King Bhumibol Adulyadej on Thursday. Mattis’ trip to the region comes ahead of US President Donald Trump’s visit to Asia next week. Trump will most likely forgo a visit to the heavily fortified border between North and South Korea, a senior White House official said earlier this week, CNN reported. Citing scheduling conflicts in an already jammed itinerary, the official did not rule out entirely a visit to the DMZ.
(IANS) 
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'Pakistan no scapegoat for US failures in region'

The Rex Effect: China defends Pakistan

China once again came out in defence of good friend Pakistan against criticism by India and the US for not doing enough to wipe out terrorist outfits from the country and praised Islamabad’s efforts in combatting terrorism. A day after India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Pakistan to act against terrorists on its soil, China said that Pakistan has done a good job in countering terrorism. “Pakistan is at the forefront of counter-terrorism efforts. For many years, Pakistan has made positive efforts to counter terrorism and has made great sacrifices,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said. China has earlier too made similar statements whenever “all-weather ally” Islamabad has been slammed for failing to curb terrorism. “We believe that the international community should recognise the efforts made by Pakistan in counter-terrorism,” Geng said. On Wednesday, Sushma Swaraj and Tillerson, who was on an India visit, told the media that New Delhi and Washington have agreed that US President Donald Trump’s new Afghanistan policy would be effective only if Pakistan takes action against terror groups on its soil. Tillerson, who had flown in from Pakistan, told Islamabad that it must step up its efforts to eliminate militants and terrorist havens operating within the country. On Tillerson’s visit to Pakistan, Geng said: “China supports the international community to enhance counter-terrorism cooperation and synergy. China has refused to declare Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar, mastermind of last year’s deadly attack on an Indian Army camp, an international terrorist. Beijing has also time and again tripped India on its bid to become an NSG member, by tacitly supporting Pakistan’s bid and placing both countries at the same level on the issue of not signing the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.
(IANS) // ]]>

Tillerson asks Pakistan to step up war on terror

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday told Pakistan that it must increase its efforts to eradicate militants and terrorists operating within the country. Tillerson, who was in Islamabad for a few hours on his inaugural trip to Pakistan as Secretary of State, met Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, and discussed the continued bilateral cooperation and partnership, expanding economic ties between the United States and Pakistan, and Pakistan’s critical role in the region, said a US Embassy press release. The top US official reiterated President Donald Trump’s message that Pakistan must increase its efforts to eradicate militants and terrorists operating within the country. To address those concerns, the Secretary outlined the United States’ new South Asia Strategy and the vital role that Pakistan can play in working with the United States and others to facilitate a peace process in Afghanistan that can bring stability and security to the region. The Secretary noted that Pakistan and the United States share common interests in establishing a stable, peaceful Afghanistan, defeating ISIS in South Asia, and eliminating terrorist groups that threaten both Pakistan and the United States. In all meetings with Pakistan’s leaders, the Secretary expressed appreciation for Pakistan’s sacrifices in the fight against terrorism. The Secretary also expressed his gratitude to the Government of Pakistan and the Pakistani Army for their cooperation in securing the release of the Boyle-Coleman family from captivity, the statement said. Abbasi also chaired an inter-agency meeting attended by Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Minister of Defence Khurram Dastigir Khan, Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, ISI chief Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar and other officials.

 “Our relationship with Pakistan will be conditions-based”

Tillerson’s Islamabad stopover comes a day after he said that the US has made some “very specific requests” to Pakistan to take action to “undermine the support that the Taliban receives and other terrorist organisations receive in Pakistan”. Talking to journalists at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan on Monday, Tillerson said that in Pakistan he will discuss US demands for securing Afghanistan and its conditions for continuing their relationship.   “We have made some very specific requests of Pakistan in order for them to take action to undermine the support that the Taliban receives and the other terrorist organisations receive in Pakistan,” he said. “And we’ve said in this whole strategy this is a conditions-based approach, and so our relationship with Pakistan will also be conditions-based. It will be based upon whether they take action that we feel is necessary to move the process forward of both creating the opportunity for reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan, but also ensuring a stable future Pakistan,” he said. “I think the US has made it clear in terms of our support for Afghanistan, support for a sovereign, unified, and democratic Afghanistan, charting a path to peace, prosperity, and self-reliance. It is imperative at the end that we are denying safe haven to any terrorist organizations or any extremists to any part of this – the world,” he said. He said the US wants to work with regional partners to ensure that there are no threats in the region and that the strategy is a regional effort. He also said the US seeks a broader role for India not just in the South Asian area but beyond it as a strategic partner across the Indo-Pacific region. “Our view of the relationship with India is one that’s of strategic importance not just for this specific region, but in the context of that speech it was about a free and open Indo-Pacific region stretching all the way to – from Japan to India,” Tillerson said. “So it’s a broader relationship.” Earlier, he met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and other senior officials at the airbase. (IANS) // ]]>

Rex Tillerson arrives today on three-day India visit

US seeks broader role for India, across Indo-Pacific region   The United States seeks a broader role for India not just in the South Asian area but beyond it as a strategic partner across the Indo-Pacific region, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Monday. At a news conference here, he was asked if he had talked to Pakistani leaders since his recent speech on India and was “trying to reassure them” about New Delhi’s involvement in Afghanistan.    

Tillerson, who is scheduled to visit India for talks with leaders in New Delhi, explained that the US approach was that the scope of its relationship with India was not confined to South Asia, but went beyond Pakistan’s regional interests to a wider area stretching across the Indian and Pacific Oceans and having global implications. “Our view of the relationship with India is one that’s of strategic importance not just for this specific region, but in the context of that speech it was about a free and open Indo-Pacific region stretching all the way to – from Japan to India,” Tillerson said. “So it’s a broader relationship.” Tillerson said that he had not yet spoken to leaders in Islamabad about his speech on India, but would talk about on Tuesday when he visits Pakistan. But he added: “We do, though, believe that India has a very important positive role that India can play in the process to achieve a peaceful, stable Afghanistan as well. They already are providing important economic activity – creating jobs – which is important for the future Afghanistan. And we think they – we want to encourage that as well.” “We think they can be a very positive influence on creating the right environment for the future in Afghanistan,” he said. On the purpose of his visit, Tillerson said: “I thought it was very important to stop here in Afghanistan coming to the South Asia region as part of the recently announced South Asia policy and strategy that President Trump has put forth.” Trump had warned Pakistan in August of consequences if it continued to allow terrorists to operate, while calling for increased Indian involvement in helping Afghanistan. On October 18, Tillerson fleshed out the US strategy on India as a strategic partner to counterbalance China and called Washington and New Delhi as “bookends” of a democratic world. Tillerson said that in Pakistan he will discuss US demands for securing Afghanistan and its conditions for continuing their relationship. “We have made some very specific requests of Pakistan in order for them to take action to undermine the support that the Taliban receives and the other terrorist organisations receive in Pakistan,” he said. “And we’ve said in this whole strategy this is a conditions-based approach, and so our relationship with Pakistan will also be conditions-based. It will be based upon whether they take action that we feel is necessary to move the process forward of both creating the opportunity for reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan, but also ensuring a stable future Pakistan.” (IANS) // ]]>