US vows to stand with India amid Chinese aggression

US vows to stand with India as they deepen defence cooperation amid Chinese aggression

During the talks, the US side also assured India that America stands with it as they confront threats to their sovereignty and liberty

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) and India's Defence Minister Rajnath Singh arrive to address a joint press briefing in the lawns of Hyderabad House in New Delhi on October 27, 2020. (Photo by Money SHARMA / AFP)

The United States vowed to stand with India to help it deal with “any threat” to its sovereignty, even as the two nations had a high-level dialogue in New Delhi on Tuesday, amid the stand-off between Indian Army and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in eastern Ladakh.

China’s “reckless aggression” along its disputed boundary with India in eastern Ladakh topped the agenda, as External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh hosted the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defence Mark Esper for the 2+2 dialogue in New Delhi.

Pompeo and Esper conveyed to Jaishankar and Singh that the US would always stand with India to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity in the wake of the challenges posed by China. India and the US also signed the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) on the side-line of the 2+2 dialogue on Tuesday. The agreement, which will institutionalize sharing of geospatial information, was the last in a series of “foundational pacts” India and the US inked since 2016 to step up bilateral defence cooperation. The signing of the agreement formally elevated the defence cooperation between India and the US to a new level.

Read: India, US sign Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement

The two nations also signed four more pacts on the side-line of the 2+2 dialogue, including one for technical cooperation in earth observations and earth sciences.

A couple of hours before holding the 2+2 dialogue with Jaishankar and Singh in the Hyderabad House in New Delhi, Pompeo and Esper also sent out a subtle message to the Xi Jinping’s regime in Beijing by visiting the National War Memorial of India “to honour the brave men and women of the Indian Armed Forces, who have sacrificed for the largest democracy of the world, including the 20, who were killed by the (Chinese) PLA forces in Galwan Valley in June (on June 15)”.

“The US will stand with India as they confront threats to their sovereignty and to their liberty,” said Pompeo, as he and Esper joined Singh and Jaishankar in a press conference after the dialogue. “Our leaders and our citizens see with increasing clarity that the Chinese Communist Party is no friend to democracy, the rule of law, transparency nor the freedom of navigation, the foundation of a free and open and prosperous Indo-Pacific.”

Read: China's aggression on agenda as India, US hold 2+2 dialogue

Singh earlier said at the beginning of the 2+2 dialogue that India was being challenged by “reckless aggression” on its northern borders. He was obviously referring to the unilateral moves by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to push the Line of Actual Control (LAC) – the de facto boundary between the two nations – westward and transgress into the territory of India.

Jaishankar avoided directly referring to the communist country but said that India and the US could make a real difference when it comes to promoting respect for territorial integrity of the nations.

He later told journalists that the Indo-Pacific region was a particular focus of the 2+2 talks on Tuesday. “We reiterated the importance of peace, stability and prosperity for all countries in this region...This is possible only by upholding the rules based international order, ensuring the freedom of navigation in the international seas, promoting open connectivity and respecting the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states,” said the External Affairs Minister. “A multi-polar world must have a multi-polar Asia as its basis.”

Jaishankar and Pompeo earlier this month joined their Australian and Japanese counterparts, Marise Payne and Motegi Toshimitsu, in Tokyo for the second annual ministerial meeting of the ‘Quad’ – an informal coalition of the four nations to contain China.

The India-US 2+2 dialogue on Tuesday took place eight months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi hosted American President Donald Trump in Ahmedabad and New Delhi. It was the last engagement between New Delhi and the Trump Administration in Washington D.C. before the final day of voting for the presidential elections in America on November 3.