2+2 meeting: Pompeo says US will stand with India to face threats to sovereignty, liberty | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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2+2 meeting: Pompeo says US will stand with India to face threats to sovereignty, liberty

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByRezaul H Laskar and Rahul Singh | Edited by Sohini Sarkar
Oct 28, 2020 02:34 AM IST

Pompeo juxtaposed joint efforts to fight Covid-19, which he described as the “pandemic that came from Wuhan”, with measures to counter China’s actions jeopardising democracy and a rules-based order.

Against the backdrop of the border standoff with China, the US on Tuesday said it will stand by India in confronting threats to its sovereignty, even as the two sides inked an agreement for sharing classified satellite imagery and aeronautical data during their 2+2 ministerial dialogue.

US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper addresses the media with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh during a joint news conference after their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi.(REUTERS PHOTO.)
US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper addresses the media with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh during a joint news conference after their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi.(REUTERS PHOTO.)

Security challenges and threats emanating from China’s belligerent actions across the region, including the standoff in Ladakh, figured prominently in the 2+2 meeting between external affairs minister S Jaishankar and defence minister Rajnath Singh and their US counterparts Mike Pomeo and Mark Esper, people familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity.

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The focus of discussions was on ways to jointly deal with these challenges and to boost defence and security cooperation to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific, the people said. “The two countries are standing firm in meeting these challenges,” one of the people cited above said. Terrorism originating from Pakistan and the related security situation in Afghanistan too figured in the talks, and the Indian side made it clear cross-border terror is “completely unacceptable”.

 

“The US will stand with the people of India as they confront threats to their sovereignty and to their liberty,” Pompeo said during a media interaction after the meeting, making a pointed reference to a visit by him and Esper to the National War Memorial to honour Indian military personnel who died during conflicts, “including the 20 killed by PLA forces in Galwan Valley in June”.

Pompeo juxtaposed joint efforts to fight Covid-19, which he described as the “pandemic that came from Wuhan”, with measures to counter China’s actions jeopardising democracy and a rules-based order.

“The challenge of defeating the pandemic that came from Wuhan also fed into our robust discussions about the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Our leaders and our citizens see with increasing clarity that the CCP is no friend to democracy, the rule of law, transparency, nor to freedom of navigation, the foundation of a free and open and prosperous Indo-Pacific,” he said.

“I’m glad to say that the US and India are taking steps to strengthen our cooperation against all manner of threats, and not just those posed by the CCP.”

Jaishankar and Singh didn’t name China in their remarks at the media interaction, and said the two countries are committed to bilateral and multilateral cooperation for post-pandemic economic recovery and creating more trusted supply chains, while also ensuring peace and stability for all countries in the Indo-Pacific.

Singh referred to growing information-sharing and interaction between India’s armed forces and various US military commands through the exchange of liaison officers, and called on America’s defence industry to join India’s Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative by taking advantage of the liberalised FDI regime.

“Our national security convergences have obviously grown in a more multi-polar world,” Jaishankar said, noting that peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific depend on upholding the rules-based order, ensuring freedom of navigation, promoting open connectivity and “respecting the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states”. He added, “A multi-polar world must have a multi-polar Asia as its basis.”

The Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), one of five agreements signed by the two sides on Tuesday, will allow India to get access to classified US satellite imagery, maps and critical aeronautical data that will help the military strike targets with greater accuracy using platforms such as long-range missiles.

BECA is the last of four foundational agreements between India and the US for sharing sensitive information and facilitating sales of advanced weapons systems. The two sides have been sharing real time intelligence under the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) signed in 2018, and they signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in 2016 for reciprocal access to logistics. The General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) was inked in 2002.

Previous Congress-led governments had held off on signing all the agreements because of thinking in certain quarters that they would tie India militarily with the US. The people cited above said there were adequate safeguards in the pacts to protect India’s autonomy and sovereignty.

Chaitanya Giri, fellow for space and ocean studies at Gateway House, said BECA can help the two sides coordinate intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) during joint exercises and operations. “The India-specificity of these agreements demonstrates the US’s recognition of India’s doctrine of strategic autonomy,” he said.

Technology-specific cooperation made possible by these agreements can help co-development and co-production of technologies under the India-US Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), Giri added.

Former Northern Army commander, Lt Gen (retired) DS Hooda, described Pompeo’s remarks on US backing for India as part of efforts to build a closer alliance.

“I think the larger message is the attempt by the US to get India into a closer alliance to counter what is clearly greater assertiveness by China in Asia. Both India and the US have some common cause in resisting Chinese actions. However, India will be conscious that China is an immediate neighbour, with whom we have an unsettled boundary. Therefore there are some issues that will have to be handled bilaterally, and a strategic balance has to be maintained.”

The Indian and American ministers welcomed New Delhi’s decision to include Australia in this year’s edition of the Malabar exercise, which brings together the navies of India, Japan and the US. This will be the first military manoeuvres in 13 years to feature all members of the Quad.

Singh said the 2+2 meeting also explored capacity building and other joint cooperation activities in third countries, including in India’s neighbourhood and beyond. “We have convergence of views on a number of such proposals and will take those forward,” he said.

The US accepted India’s request for cooperation in maritime domain awareness and both sides will take steps for joint development of systems and expertise, Singh said.

Besides strengthening Covid-19-related cooperation to develop vaccines, therapeutics, and equipment, the two sides are working on a MoU between health authorities to enhance cooperation on health emergencies, pandemics, and biomedical research. The two sides also intend to sign a MoU between the Indian Council of Medical Research and the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to collaborate on infectious diseases, including Covid-19 and other emerging threats.

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