Being in India and Asia and yet campaigning for Donald Trump for next week’s do or die presidential polls are the goal of two top US policy makers – Mike Pompeo and Mark Esper.
On a visit to India for the vital ‘2-Plus-2’ Ministerial Dialogue, the Secretary of State Pompeo and US Secretary of Defence Esper want to give a tough message to China overseas and a convincing message back home to the American voters.
Incumbent President Trump has certainly made his China-centric onslaught a key part of his campaign to secure a second term against Democratic candidate Joe Biden. In the process of course, things have turned ‘favourable’ to India, which has a vexed boundary issue with China and the crisis had aggravated in June when 20 of its soldiers were martyred.
Pompeo wooed India in quite an unambiguous manner.
“This morning we visited the National War Memorial (in Delhi) to honour the brave men and women of Indian armed forces including 20 who were killed by the PLA forces in the Galwan valley,” Pompeo told reporters at a joint media briefing alongside Esper and two Indian Ministers Rajnath Singh (Defence) and Dr S Jaishankar (External Affairs) on Tuesday, Oct 27.
“The US will stand with the people of India when they face threat to their sovereignty and their liberty,” he said.
Indian foreign minister Jaishankar, a former career diplomat, did not refer to China directly at the joint press conference but did speak about “national security convergences” with the United States.
This speaks of the determination to ensure peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region and strategies to tackle security and counter-terrorism.
“Our national security convergences have obviously grown in a more multi-polar world. We meet today to not only advance our own interests but to ensure that our bilateral cooperation makes a positive contribution
to the world arena,” said Jaishankar. “We are also committed to addressing together global issues ranging from the High availability disaster recovery (HADR) situation to maritime security and counter-terrorism”.
Pompeo also lauded the role of leadership – Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the US President Trump, and said the ties between two large democracies are growing “stronger day by day”.
“Big things are happening as our democracies align to better protect the citizens of our two countries and indeed, of the free world,” Pompeo said.
Both Pompeo and Esper that China and Communist Party of China (CPC) of president Xi Jinping are named more than
US Secretary of Defence, Esper, said both the countries stand “shoulder to shoulder” in support of a free and open Indo Pacific particularly in the wake of “increasing aggression and destabilising activities by China”.
For his part, Pompeo said, “Our leaders and citizens see with increasing clarity that Chinese Communist Party is no friend to democracy, rule of law, transparency… I am glad to say India and the US are taking all steps to strengthen cooperation against all threats and not just those posed by CCP”.
Of course, China has dismissed the American accusations. “We urge Pompeo to abandon his Cold War mentality, zero-sum mindset, and stop harping on the ‘China threat’,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin
told a news briefing in Beijing.
In June, 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a clash with Chinese troops at Galwan valley. The Modi government has sought closer military ties with the United States.
Keeping aside Chinese reservations, India also has invited Australia to join naval drills it holds each year with the United States and Japan.
This was acknowledged in the Joint Statement.
“The Ministers welcomed the inclusion of the Royal Australian Navy in the U.S.-India-Japan MALABAR Naval Exercise scheduled to be held in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea in November 2020. Highlighting the importance of deepening maritime cooperation and the growing sophistication of U.S.-India naval cooperation, the Ministers welcomed the PASSEX carried out by the Navies of both countries,” the statement said.
The US welcomed India’s co-hosting of the Indo-Pacific Armies Chiefs Conference (IPACC), Indo-Pacific Armies Management Seminar (IPAMS) and Senior Enlisted Leader Forum in 2023. Both sides would also be looking forward
for enhanced cooperation and military exercises like Yudh Abhyas and Vajra Prahar next year.
Pompeo, who would be visiting Sri Lanka,Indonesia and the Maldives as part of his major Asian outreach exercise, had said his deliberations with Indian and other South Asian leaders would “include discussions on how free nations can work together to thwart threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party”.
Referring to his forthcoming visit to other Asian countries, Pompeo said, “collectively” both India and the US can build up on efforts and “do good things for the entire region together”.