The United States apparently is always looking over its shoulder vis-a-vis China, conscious that its envisaged strategic partnership with India and its trilateral partnerships in East Asia and the Pacific -- with India and Japan and India and Australia respectively -- are not construed as ostensible encirclement of Beijing.
Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs Robert O Blake, when questioned on these trilateral dialogues involving India, said during an interaction that followed a major address by him at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, "We are very conscious that we don't in any way have China get the wrong impression of what we are doing."
"These are not consultations aimed at trying to contain China," he emphasised, and noted, "On the contrary, these are consultations aimed at trying to collectively seize opportunities we see in the Asia-Pacific."
Blake said, "We all want to engage China and that is why we and India have reached out to try to talk to the Chinese about these activities. We hope they will accept that and as I have said before, I have had very productive discussions of my own and we have a South Asia dialogue with China."
He said, "These have been going on now for three years and they are highly productive and so we want to continue that."
Blake recalled that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had "first previewed this in her speech in Chennai last year that this is going to be a major new area of strategic engagement for the United States, and we have a very strong interest in seeing India more integrated into the various institutions of the Asia Pacific, including particularly East Asia, but also others as well."
"We all see tremendous opportunities to do more together in areas like maritime security, promoting freedom of navigation and many other issues," he said.
Asked what specifically the US was seeking in trying to bring about a trilateral dialogue among it, India and China, Blake said, "The purpose of (such a) dialogue is first to share our perspectives on the important issues that we face," and noted that "in all of these dialogues we negotiate in advance on what the agenda will be."
"Then eventually, we hope to talk about ways that we can actually cooperate together -- try to ensure that our view converge on (whatever) the issue might be," he said.
Blake said, "There are important opportunities where all of us could work together," and as an immediate example, said it would be the transition in Afghanistan, with the impending withdrawal of US and NATO troops from that war-ravaged country.