The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for India and the US to work together against a common adversary in China on Tuesday as the two countries held talks in Delhi where they are expected to sign a key military information pact.
Mr Pompeo is in India along with US Defence Secretary Mark Esper for an annual strategic dialogue with India’s Foreign Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
The talks come at a time when India and China have been involved in a standoff in Ladakh on the Line of Actual Control between the nations for more than 150 days.
Ahead of the talks with the two Indian ministers, Mr Pompeo and Mr Esper met India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval on Tuesday.
"Today is a new opportunity for two great democracies like ours to grow closer… There is much more work to do for sure. We have a lot to discuss today: 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,” said Mr Pompeo.
US’s defence secretary Mark Esper said the focus of the two countries now must be on “institutionalising and regularising” cooperation to meet the challenges of the day and “uphold the principles of a free and open Indo-Pacific well into the future."
Donald Trump, who is seeking a second term as US president in an election next week, has also sharpened attacks on China in the past few months. He has battled with China on trade issues as well as over the Covid-19 pandemic, calling it the “China virus” or “Chinese plague”.
US warships have also been active in the South China Sea in this same period, as they seek to counter China’s growing influence.
Meanwhile, Washington has been actively involved in shaping the strengthening bond between the so-called Quad group of countries – India, the US, Japan and Australia – which also has one eye on countering Chinese influence.
The navies of the four nations are scheduled to take part in the annual Malabar naval drills off the Indian coast in November – with all four involved for the first time in 13 years, despite Chinese protests.
Later on Tuesday, India and the US are expected to sign a military agreement which will give the former access to data from US satellites to improve the Indian military’s targeting capabilities.