Pentagon woos India amid Chinese tensions

US aims to boost military ties with New Delhi, accusing Beijing of challenging ‘rules-based international order’

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin hosted a meeting Monday at the Pentagon with Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar to discuss ways to deepen their bilateral defense cooperation. Officials « reaffirmed their commitment to work together as steadfast partners to advance the shared U.S.-Indian vision for a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific, » says the Pentagon.

The main challenge to this vision – at least according to Washington – is China, which has sparked territorial disputes with various nations in the South China Sea. Beijing has also pledged to reunite with Taiwan, which it considers a breakaway province. China and the United States have increasingly clashed over Taiwan in recent months, particularly after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the self-governing island in August, a move Beijing saw as a attack on its sovereignty. China responded by cutting military and climate ties with Washington and holding military exercises in the Taiwan Strait.

« Regional security is particularly important right now, given China’s growing warmongering, especially vis-à-vis Taiwan, » said Austin. « In recent months, we have seen the PRC intensify its efforts to challenge the rules-based international order. »

Austin added that the United States and India are facing « persistent challenges to global peace, security and prosperity ». He also criticized Beijing for refusing to condemn and isolate Russia over the Ukraine conflict.

“China continues to support Russia – a nation that is also seeking to overthrow the rules-based order – amid its unprovoked and cruel invasion of Ukraine,” said Austin.

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However, the United States was also unable to persuade New Delhi to stop doing business with Russia. In fact, India has sharply increased its oil and coal imports from Russia this year. A US State Department official told reporters last week that Washington was in « Deep » talks with Indian officials about the South Asian country’s reliance on Russian energy and weaponry.

Jaishankar downplayed the Ukrainian aspect of Monday’s meeting, saying: “I share with you that the world situation has become much more difficult this year [due to] various reasons, the Indo-Pacific in particular. It is important that the stability, security and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific be ensured. This is best done, among other things, through cooperation between two countries.

Austin hosted Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh at the Pentagon in April and spoke with Singh by phone earlier this month. While both sides said the call was « productive, » Singh filed a complaint about a recent US deal to extend the life of Pakistan’s F-16 fighter jets.


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