WASHINGTON: The US will continue to support India with equipment and other things it needs along the Line of Actual Control with China, a top American admiral has told lawmakers, asserting that Washington and New Delhi share a “tremendous partnership”.
Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on ‘Military Posture in the Indo-Pacific Region’, Admiral John Aquilino, Commander of US Indo-Pacific Command, said the military-to-military relationship between the two countries is probably at its highest point.
He was responding to a question from Senator Gary Peters.
“My question for you, Admiral, is can you speak to the relationship you have with our Indian counterparts and what more can we do to strengthen our security relationship between our two countries?” Peters asked.
“Senator, to start, I have no concerns. Our partners in India are tremendous partners, and the military-to-military relationship is probably at its highest point. We continue to do more together,” Admiral Aquilino said in response.
“But when you talk about tremendous partnership, it’s there. What more can we do? Continue the information sharing, continue to support them with the equipment they need upon the Line of Actual Control, and continue to partner and operate together throughout the region,” he said.
“The Malabar exercise with Japan, Australia, the United States, and India is critical. Increased mini lateral and multilateral engagements with the Indians, and ultimately continue to sell them equipment so we can be more interoperable and more effective together in the military sphere,” he said.
The Malabar exercise started in 1992 as a bilateral drill between the Indian Navy and the U.S. Navy in the Indian Ocean.
Japan became a permanent member of the exercise in 2015.
This annual exercise was conducted off the coast of Guam in 2018 and off the coast of Japan in 2019.
The exercise was hosted in two phases in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea in 2020.
There have been mounting global concerns over China’s growing military assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region.
India, the U.S., Australia, Japan and many other like-minded countries are working towards ensuring a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific.
The US and the UK on Friday agreed to enhance ties with India as part of their commitment to coordinate the implementation of the Indo-Pacific strategy and pursue positive economic engagement in the strategically vital region.
According to a joint statement, the two countries agreed to collaborate on critical and emerging technologies, to ensure economic security and to oppose economic coercion.
They agreed to pursue positive economic engagement in the Indo-Pacific, including through supporting just green transitions as part of the Clean Green Initiative and Build Back Better World agendas.
“In the coming months, the US and the UK will work together to invest in partnerships with the Pacific Islands; to support the centrality of ASEAN and to advance concrete cooperation with ASEAN and its member states; and to enhance ties with India,” the statement said following their consultations on the Indo-Pacific on March 7 and 8.
India, the US and several other world powers have been talking about the need to ensure a free, open and thriving Indo-Pacific in the backdrop of China’s rising military manoeuvring in the region.
China claims nearly all of the disputed South China Sea, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts of it.
Beijing has built artificial islands and military installations in the South China Sea.
India also reiterated the importance of freedom of navigation and overflight on the high seas, unimpeded lawful commerce, as well as resolving maritime disputes by peaceful means, in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
While the American delegation was led by Indo-Pacific Coordinator Kurt Campbell, the British team was led by its Deputy National Security Advisor David Quarrey, the statement said.
The US has an Indo-Pacific strategy and Britain has an Indo-Pacific tilt.
The two countries have now decided to coordinate on the Indo-Pacific, it said.
“They reaffirmed the importance of the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” it said.
China views self-ruled Taiwan as a rebel province that must be reunified with the mainland, even by force.
The statement had no mention of Quad: the new informal grouping of four countries, that includes Australia, India, Japan and the US.
Both the governments resolved to broaden and deepen their alignment and cooperation in and in the region.
“They welcomed growing coordination among allies and partners across the Atlantic and the Pacific. In particular, they noted unprecedented commitments from Indo-Pacific countries,including Japan, Australia, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, and Singapore, to support Ukraine and to impose costs on Russia for its brutal and unprovoked attack,” the joint statement said.
“They also noted that these steps come at a time when the US, UK and European partners are enhancing their engagement with the Indo-Pacific and preparing to meet the challenge of systemic competition with China,” It said.