US Secretary of State-designate John Kerry hints Obama's main focus is South-Central Asia and Middle East
When Senator John Kerry testified before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee which took up his confirmation hearing for Obama administration's Secretary of State position he singled out a region: South and Central Asia and the Middle East.
Is this the region that the Obama administration's next four-year tenure will pay special attention?
Mr. Kerry in his opening statement to the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday, 24 January said "The world is well aware we face a number of immediate, dangerous challenges, particularly in the Middle East and South and Central Asia".
While engaged in the affairs of the Middle East, the United States has recently focused its attention toward the Asian Region following China's increased involvement in that part of the world.
The Asia Society report 'The United States and South Asia after Afghanistan' released in the second week of December (2012) makes this recommendation at the time Senator John Kerry had been mentioned as the next secretary of state in the second Obama administration.
"A second Obama administration provides an opportunity to forge a better-integrated South Asia strategy. The approach should not be a focus on a single country alone. This is not about an India strategy, with neighbors attached"
Then it opines: "A holistic approach is essential. Many, if not all, functional challenges cross the traditional South and Central Asia/East Asia divide. Asian states see Asia as a geopolitical and economic space. U.S. policy makers on South Asia need to do likewise. China is a South Asian foreign and economic policy actor; a close political ally of Pakistan; and deeply engaged with Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives. U.S. policy makers need to stretch their vision beyond the boundaries of geographic bureaus at the State Department."
What the Asia Society December 2012 report cited Kerry Foreign relations Committee report envisaged in December 2009. Asia Society said: "For China, South Asia is the near abroad. The country shares direct land borders with Pakistan, India, Nepal, and Bhutan and a close interest in Sri Lanka and the Maldives given that so much of China’s energy needs are shipped via the Indian Ocean. Just as U.S. policy toward China will have consequences for U.S. relations with South Asian states, China’s policy toward South Asia will have consequences for Washington’s interests."
The Obama administration's renewed focus on the Asian region and Senator Kerry's mention of the significance of the region at January 24 Senate Foreign Affairs Committee hearing were recent developments since the Committee which he chaired made specific reference to the importance of the Asian Region and Sri Lanka to the U.S. in its December 7, 2009 report Sri Lanka : Recharting U.S. Strategy After The War.
The secretary of state-designee John Kerry told the Foreign Affairs committee that "People all over the world are looking to the United States for leadership. We are known as the indispensable nation for good reason. No nation has more opportunity to advance the cause of democracy and no nation is as committed to the cause of human rights as we are".
He further emphasized: "More than ever, foreign policy is economic policy. The world is competing for resources and global markets. Every day that goes by where America is uncertain about engaging in that arena, unwilling to put our best foot forward and win, unwilling to demonstrate our resolve to lead, is a day in which we weaken our nation itself. My plea is that we can summon across party lines, without partisan diversions, an economic patriotism which recognizes that American strength and prospects abroad, depend on American strength and results at home. It is hard to tell the leadership of any number of countries they must get their economic issues resolved if we don’t resolve our own".
And he cautioned: "Burgeoning populations of young people, hungry for jobs, opportunity, individual rights and freedom are rebelling against years of disenfranchisement and humiliation. A fruit vendor in Tunisia who ignited the Arab awakening wanted dignity and respect. He wanted to sell his fruit without corruption and abuse. The youth of Tahrir Square who brought Egypt its revolution represented a generational thirst for opportunity and individual participatory rights of governance–not a religious movement. The developed world can do more to meet the challenge and responsibility of these aspirations".
“American foreign policy is not defined by drones and deployments alone,” Kerry said. “The world is competing for resources in global markets. Every day that America is unwilling to engage in that arena…is a day in which we weaken the nation itself.”
"Nearly 42 years ago Chairman Fulbright first gave me the opportunity to testify before this committee during a difficult and divided time for our country,” Kerry said. “Today I can’t help but recognize that the world itself then was in many ways simpler, divided as it was along bi-polar, Cold War antagonism. Today’s world is more complicated than anything we have experienced -- from the emergence of China, to the Arab Awakening; inextricably linked economic, health, environmental and demographic issues, proliferation, poverty, pandemic disease, refugees, conflict ongoing in Afghanistan, entire populations and faiths struggling with the demands of modernity, and the accelerating pace of technological innovation shifting power from nation-states to individuals.”
John Kerry soon after he returned from the Vietnam battlefield went before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee in April 1971 to tell the American legislature about futility of the war. Thursday was his second appearance to testify before the same committee which he was a member since he entered the senate in 1985 and its chairman past four years.
The committee is expected to approve Kerry's nomination early next week, and a full Senate vote could occur before the month is out. The incumbent Secretary of State Hillary Clinton introduced Mr. Kerry to the Committee.
- Asian Tribune -