India US 2+2 ministerial dialogue: US names China, pledges to stick to India to combat any 'threat'

    27-Oct-2020   
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New Delhi: "Big things are happening", remarked the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the end of crucial '2-Plus-2' Ministerial dialogue with the Indian leaders here.
 
This suggested that the deliberations and the outcome could be taken as shot in the arm for Indian diplomacy as China was named and shamed more than once.
In a significant announcement, Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said, both sides "also explored the probable capacity building and other cooperation activities in third countries including our neighbourhood and beyond".
 
Pompeo accompanied US Secretary of Defence, Mark Esper, participated at the third '2-Plus-2' meet with Indian counterparts Dr S Jaishankar and Rajnath Singh respectively. NSA Ajit Doval met them separately, and both sides discussed issues taking forward shared objectives and building capabilities across all domains.
 
The visiting US top policymakers and aides of President Donald Trump also called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
 
Pompeo told a joint press conference: "Our leaders and citizens see with increasing clarity that the Chinese Communist Party is no friend to democracy, the rule of law, transparency... I am glad to say India and the US are taking all steps to strengthen cooperation against all threats and not just those posed by CCP".
 
He lauded the role of leadership - Prime Minister Modi and the US President Trump, and said the ties between two large democracies are growing "stronger day by day".
 
"This morning we visited the National War Memorial to honour the brave men and women of Indian armed forces including 20 who were killed by the PLA forces in the Galwan valley," he said.
 
"The US will stand with the people of India when they face a threat to their sovereignty and their liberty," he was more than specific perhaps.
 
Pompeo, who would be visiting Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the Maldives as part of his major Asian outreach exercise, had recently said his deliberations with Indian and other South Asian leaders would "include discussions on how free nations can work together to thwart threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party".
 
Referring to his forthcoming visit to other Asian countries, Pompeo answering a media question also said, "collectively" both India and the US can build up on efforts and "do good things for the entire region together".
 
Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Indonesia - the three nations wherein China has over the years invested heavily and enhanced its influence.
 
Echoing similar sentiment, the US Secretary of Defence, Mark Esper said both the countries stand "shoulder to shoulder" in support of a free and open Indo Pacific particularly in the wake of "increasing aggression and destabilising activities by China".
 
"Today, we made some substantial progress in further strengthening our relationship," he said.
 
Esper maintained the Indo-US partnership in the new era and changing times is "more important than ever".
 
He said the defence ties between the two countries remain a 'key pillar' in the overall bilateral relationship.
 
Both Esper and his Indian counterpart, Rajnath Singh, mentioned the signing of the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) which would give India access to classified geospatial data as well as critical information having significant military applications from the US.
 
Rajnath Singh said the third 2-Plus-2 Ministerial dialogue today ensured detailed discussions on "key aspects" of bilateral and multilateral dimensions. Signing of BECA after inking other such high-profile pacts is a "significant achievement", Rajnath said.
 
External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar said: "At a time when it is particularly important to uphold a rules-based international order, the ability of India and the US to work closely in defence and foreign policy has a larger resonance".
 
Dr Jaishankar said the Indo Pacific region was of particular focus during the dialogue today.
 
In this context, both Dr Jaishankar and Rajnath Singh made a strong pitch for rules-based order ensuring the freedom of navigation in international seas and respecting the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states.
 
"A multipolar world must have a multipolar Asia....," Dr Jaishankar emphasised.
 
India also made it clear that cross border terrorism - a veiled reference to Pakistan - was completely 'unacceptable'.
 
"In Afghanistan, India's stakes in its security and stability is evident as is our willingness to contribute to international efforts," Dr Jaishankar said.
 
Answering questions from journalists, Dr Jaishankar said the Indo-US collaboration could be a "force of good".
 
Fielding a question on buying of defence equipment, Rajnath Singh said this could be essentially decided only after formal negotiations.