Pompeo pushes closer ties with India to counter China
The two sides have a lot to discuss, including “our cooperation on the pandemic that originated in Wuhan, to confronting the Chinese Communist Party’s threats to security and freedom to promoting peace and stability throughout the region,” Pompeo said during a visit in the capital New Delhi on Tuesday.
Pompeo is in India with Defense Secretary Mark Esper for a 2+2 ministerial meeting with Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, where they will discuss cooperation on pandemic response and challenges in the Indo-Pacific.
The discussions are taking place barely a week before presidential elections in the US and at a time when India, a member of the informal four-nation Quad grouping along with America, Japan and Australia, is in talks to de-escalate military tensions with Beijing.
Meanwhile, India and the United States are set to sign an accord on sharing sensitive information ahead of talks between their defence and foreign ministers that will focus on countering China's growing influence.
US Defence Secretary Mark Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will meet India's External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh as Indian and Chinese troops face off at their disputed Himalayan border.
The Pompeo-Esper visit to New Delhi is part of a concerted US campaign to draw India into a deeper defence relationship.
Esper and Singh "reinforced their commitment to deepening military-to-military cooperation" during talks on Monday, said a US Defense Department statement.
Jaishankar tweeted after his talks with Pompeo that relations between the emerging allies have "grown substantially in every domain".
Both sides said that an accord on sharing geospatial intelligence would be signed during the day.
The Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement will allow the US to share top-secret satellite and sensor data that would help India in targeting its missiles and placing troops.
It will also allow the US to provide the latest navigational technology on any fighter jets it supplies to India.
Esper has been pressing the case for India to buy US F-18 jets and move away from its reliance on Russian weaponry.
Esper and Singh "welcomed the expansion of information-sharing", the US statement said.
An Indian Defence Ministry statement said the two ministers discussed potential new areas of cooperation, without giving details.
India's arch-rival neighbour was not mentioned publicly after Monday's meetings but the US statement said Esper and Singh "agreed to continue to work in partnership to address pressing global security challenges".
India has sought greater international military support since the eruption of its latest deadly border showdown with China in June. At least 20 Indian soldiers were killed in the clash while Chinese casualties are unknown.
Both sides have since sent tens of thousands of troops to either side of the disputed frontier in the Ladakh region and are digging in for a long, hard winter in the high-altitude region. India is shopping for US cold-weather equipment, officials said.
US officials have said they want the four-nation Quad alliance to be given a more permanent structure in moves that China's foreign ministry said it had "noted".