On Monday, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin assured India that the US will continue to stand by it in the face of Chinese threats.
Welcoming Defence Minister Rajnath Singh to the Pentagon for bilateral talks Austin said: “Beijing is eroding the security of the Indo-Pacific region from its construction of dual-use infrastructure along your border to its unlawful claims in the South China Sea, and we will continue to stand alongside you as you defend your sovereign interest.”
He said that they were meeting “at a critical moment in the US-India defence partnership”.
Austin said: “Our partnership is based on a shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region, one grounded in principles such as the rule of law and national sovereignty. We’re facing urgent and mounting challenges to this shared vision.”
“China is attempting to challenge and undermine the sovereignty of its neighbours,” he said.
Rajnath Singh, who was greeted at the Pentagon by an honour guard, did not mention China or Russia in his response, which was in Hindi with English translation.
He said that “our visit here shall take India-US comprehensive strategic partnership to the next level” and the 2+2 Dialogue that will include External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Secretary of State Antony Blinken “are indeed important landmarks in our bilateral relationship”.
Austin also mentioned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which is currently the US’s top priority.
“Beijing is not alone in its efforts to undermine the security of its neighbours and to change the status quo by force.
“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the humanitarian devastation that it has created are blatant attempts to undermine the international order that is grounded in the rules and the principles that we share,” he said.
“Just as India’s leadership is central to this rules-based order, so, too, is the US-India defence partnership and our collaboration with like-minded partners,” Austin added.
“We now coordinate along — alongside each other across the Indo-Pacific region and across domains, which is truly extraordinary, and we are committed to working seamlessly with you across new and emerging domains, including space and cyberspace,” he said.
India and the United States will sign a Memorandum of Understanding on Space Situational Awareness to protect the two countries’ space assets.
Austin’s reference to China’s “construction of dual-use infrastructure” was in reference to Beijing’s projects in India’s neighbouring countries that could fall into its hands, as has happened with a Sri Lankan port that Colombo handed over to China on a 99-year lease after it was unable to keep up loan payments.