Tom Shannon: US official who slammed China for denting India’s NSG bid

A week after India failed to get entry into Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) due to China-led opposition, the US on Wednesday said only one country can break consensus in the atomic trading bloc and insisted that such members should be held accountable. US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Thomas A Shannon, aka Tom Shannon’s comments are being seen as a veiled attack on China.
Shannon, however, asserted that the US is committed to ensuring India’s entry into the NSG while expressing “regret” that Washington was unsuccessful in making India a member of the bloc in its pleanary in Seoul last week. “We understand that in a consensus-based organisation, one country can break consensus. But in order to do so it must be (held) accountable not isolated.
“I think what we need to do going forward is, for both of us India and the US, sit down and take a call what happened in the Seoul, take a close look at the diplomatic process which is significant and see what more we can do and how we can ensure that next time we are successful,” he said during an interactive session at the Foreign Service Institute.
Calling India an “anchor of stability” in the Asia Pacifc region, Tom Shannon also said what China was doing in South China Sea is “madness” and it wants New Delhi to play a major role in the Indian Ocean. Shannon said managing the rise of China was a major challenge and that the US wants to work with India to have a strong and comprehensive presence in the Indian Ocean.
Describing India a responsible and important player in the sphere of nuclear non-proliferation, Shannon said, “We are committed to having India join the Nuclear Suppliers Group. We believe that through the kind of work we have done, the civil nuclear agreement, the way India conducted itself, it is worthy of this.”
Previously the Counselor of the department, Thomas A Shannon Jr was confirmed as the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs on 12 February, 2016. He also served briefly as the senior advisor to the secretary following his return in September from Brazil, where he served as the United States Ambassador for nearly four years.
Shannon’s comment is seen as an important US voice as the Under Secretary for Political Affairs is the fourth ranking position in the United States Department of State, after the Secretary and the two Deputy Secretaries. While the positions of Secretary and Deputy Secretary are occupied by political appointees, the position of Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs is usually (but not always) occupied by a career Foreign Service Officer, making the occupant the highest-ranking member of the Foreign Service.
‘US to continue to support India’
On India’s NSG bid, he said the US would continue to work for India’s inclusion in the group. Shannon, who met Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar earlier in the day, said India’s recent entry into the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) highlighted that the country is a “responsible and important player in the road to non- proliferation.”
“We regret, in Seoul we and India, were unable to open space necessary to allow India to move into the NSG at this moment,” he said. When asked whether he thinks India will ratify the Paris climate deal before Obama administration’s tenure got over and, at the same time, it will become a member of the NSG, he said “I hope so”. He said India has given a commitment to ratify the climate deal.
Shannon said that Indo-US civil nuclear cooperation was a very important symbol of friendship between the two countries. “Just a few weeks ago, President Obama and Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi welcomed the start of preparatory work on a site in Andhra Pradesh for six AP 1000 reactors to be built by an American company. “This is expected to provide jobs in both countries and bring clean, reliable electricity that will help meet India’s growing energy needs while reducing reliance on fossil fuels,” he said.
Prior to his tenure in Brazil, Ambassador Shannon served as Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs from 2005 to 2009.
During his thirty year career as a foreign service officer, Shannon also served as the special assistant to the Ambassador at the US, Embassy in Brasilia, Brazil from 1989 to 1992, as Country Officer for Cameroon, Gabon, and Sao Tome and Principe from 1987 to 1989, and as a Consular/Political Rotational Officer at the US Embassy in Guatemala City, Guatemala, from 1984 to 1986.
‘There’s no partnership like India’
Shannon also referred to US Secretary of State John Kerry’s remark that the US might not have another partnership that was so wide-ranging as the one with India. “In fact, we see India as an anchor of stability in this dynamic region, and were pleased to finalise the text of a Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Understanding (LEMOA) this month,” he said.
Shannon said the US actively supports India’s entry into Australia Group as well as Wassenaar arrangement, which are key export control regimes. Holding that managing rise of China was a challenge, Shannon said through South China Sea, Beijing plans to broaden it’s presence in the Indian Ocean.
“…the big challenge is how we manage rise of China,” he said while explaining China’s growing assertiveness in South China Sea including laying of air strips and positioning military aircraft. At the same time, he added India is US’ natural partner and America’s intention was to work with it to have a strong and comprehensive presence in the strategic Indian Ocean region.
“We are looking for ways in which we can work with others in the region to watch China, to ensure it behaves in a responsible fashion. Behaves in a fashion which is bound and constrained by commitment to rules and regulations,” the diplomat said, adding India could be more “ambitious” in pursuing its strategic goals. He said the US hoped that it will be able to work with China and convince it that benefit lies in collaboration and developing a rule-based international order on the issue of South China Sea.
Shannon, who also served as the director of Inter-American Affairs at the National Security Council from 1999 to 2000 commented on Indo-US defence and economic ties and said that US’ relations with India are irreversible and whoever comes to power after the November 2016 US Presidential Elections will continue to strengthen the relationship. Shannon said India and US will continue to work together to deal with challenges of terrorism and climate change.
“We welcome India’s offer to host a summit on countering weapons of mass destruction and terror in 2018,” he said. Replying to a question on US interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, the US official said, those were done considering the security situation.