Blinken's visits to Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand have a special significance for the region and India.
New Delhi: The 'Indo-Pacific' and the continued US interest in the region remains a bone of contention between Beijing and Moscow. To strengthen military partnerships because of the aggressive stance of China, The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is on an important tour to three South-East Asian countries-Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.
The visit is also crucial from New Delhi's perspective, as both the US and India are key stakeholders in the Quad, which works for the Indo-Pacific region.
Blinken is also expected to "address the worsening crisis" in Myanmar, where the military has seized power since February overthrowing the civilian government. Recently, pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was also sentenced to jail.
The Biden administration is seeking to bolster economic and security cooperation with Southeast Asia and is reflected from the fact visit of Vice President Kamala Harris to the region.
"Pleased to meet with Indonesian President Joko Widodo to discuss how the United States and Indonesia can work together to preserve security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific," Blinken tweeted. "I also thanked him for Indonesia's work on issues including the climate crisis and COVID-19," he wrote.
Blinken has a tough assignment and is trying to achieve President Joe Biden's aim of elevating engagement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to "unprecedented" levels, to deal with security and economic issues in the face of a "bullying" China.
The US Secretary of State's visit comes when the US-China confrontation sees a new scale as Beijing has mounted military pressure on Taiwan. China also claims most of the South China Sea. The US sees Southeast Asia as vital in its strategic scheme to push back against China's growing power.
Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, too tried in this matter when he travelled to the Philippines in November 2017. On the sidelines of the ASEAN-India Summit, he held key meetings with leaders from India (Narendra Modi), Japan, Australia and gave a structure to the four-nation arrangement of the Quad, along with Japan and Australia.
Blinken will deliver a speech on the significance of the Indo-Pacific region and underscore the importance of the U.S.-Indonesia Strategic Partnership in the country's capital, Jakarta. Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim majority nation. Blinken will then head towards Malaysia and Thailand, where he will attempt to advance US ties on both geostrategic and economic fronts.
However, China already has a deeper economic agenda in this region.
"The Indo-Pacific region is a critical part of our economy. It's not just that it accounts for over half of the world's population and 60 percent of global GDP," Jose Fernandez, the undersecretary of state for economic growth, energy, and the environment, said.
At least 10-5 US export markets are in the Indo-Pacific, and two-way trade between the US and the South East Asian region was over $1.75 trillion.