NEW DELHI: US defence secretary Mark Esper said America was “closely monitoring” the India-China stand-off and the disengagement process on the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
In his virtual address to the International Institute of Strategic Studies, a global think-tank, Esper also said the USS Nimitz-Indian Navy exercises “shows US ability to project power in the Indian Ocean, and to sustain it with our allies and partners”.
The Indian Navy’s maritime drill with the US carrier strike group has been interpreted as signalling America’s intention of standing by India in its bid to resist China’s aggression on the LAC.
Describing the India relationship as “one of the all-important defence relationships of the 21st century”, Esper said India and the US would hold their ‘2+2’ dialogue between foreign and defence ministers later this year. Indian government sources said there was a plan for Esper to visit India around October. This year, it’s the turn of US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and Esper to make the trip to India, but between Covid-19 and the US polls, dates have not been fixed yet, sources here said.
Days after the US aligned its position on sovereignty in the South China Sea with the 2016 arbitral award by UNCLOS, Esper outlined the US’s Indo-Pacific strategy and said, “Three pillars of the US Indo-Pacific strategy are based on preparedness, strengthening partnerships and promoting a more networked region.” He added that the US was “encouraging Indo-Pacific nations to expand their own intra-regional security ties and networks of like-minded partners”, highlighting the India-Australia logistics sharing pact signed in June.