The Joe Biden administration will provide India access to better capabilities and technologies to enforce the rule of international law in the Indo-Pacific region, particularly an expansionist China, sources said after US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The defence secretary described the Indo-US strategic partnership as “a force for global good”, sources said.
The defence secretary had landed in New Delhi yesterday in the evening. His tour is to execute the Biden administration’s plan to forge an alliance of countries seeking to push back against the aggression of China in the region. Austin met National Security Adviser Ajit Doval soon after the meeting with Prime Minister Modi. The dignitary met Defence Minister Rajnath Singh later.
The Singh-Austin dialogue involved wide-ranging defence cooperation, information-sharing in emerging areas, and mutual logistical support, a government statement said.
“Great meeting with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval last night,” Austin tweeted on Saturday morning. “The breadth of collaboration between our two nations reflects the significance of our major defence partnership as we work together to address the most pressing challenges facing the Indo-Pacific region.”
The two-hour-long meeting between Defence Secretary Austin and NSA Doval was very positive with both leaders exchanging notes on the security environment in Asia and beyond.
“It is in American interest that there is a favourable balance of power in Asia in face of a militarily assertive China. Washington, DC, needs to join hands with countries like India whose territorial integrity is being challenged by Beijing,” said a former Indian foreign secretary.
Austin’s meetings in New Delhi are a strong contrast to the one held by his two colleagues, US secretary of state Antony Blinken and US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, with their counterparts from China in Alaska’s Anchorage. After the first round, both sides publicly skewered each other’s policies in front of TV cameras.
It is quite evident from the readouts of the US-China meeting between top diplomats of the two countries that Beijing will continue to assert its growing power all across the globe with what it called the Chinese style of democracy and push back against the US and its allies on all fronts.
Defence Secretary Austin’s meeting with Prime Minister Modi and NSA Doval has laid the firm foundation for the two countries to enforce international law in the Indo-Pacific bilaterally and through the Quad platform.
The leaders of the United States, India, Australia and Japan, who met under the aegis of a grouping known as Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad held their first summit last week pledged to work together for a free and open Indo-Pacific and to cooperate on maritime and cybersecurity in the face of challenges from China.
India and China have been locked in a standoff at multiple locations in the East Ladakh region since May last year after aggressive maneuvres by Beijing’s People’s Liberation Army. The two sides have pulled out troops from the friction points around Pangong Tso but have been unable to move forward in other areas.
While no defence deals are expected out of Secretary Austin’s meeting with defence minister Rajnath Singh, the formal meeting will help the visiting dignitary understand Indian future hardware requirements particularly in light of the increasing maritime domain awareness and reaction capabilities in the Indo-Pacific. As of now, the new Joe Biden administration is reviewing US weapon supplies to its partners and the hardware pipeline is set to resume after Secretary Austin returns to Washington.
On top of this agenda are 30 weaponised Predator drones to Indian tri-services and six more P8I anti-submarine warfare and surveillance aircraft apart from the possible transfer of technology to make heavier and more powerful engines for twin-engine fighter being developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation under “Atmanirbhar Bharat” initiative. The Indian Navy is already using two unarmed Predator drones for surveillance of the Indian Ocean and beyond to understand and adapt to the technology.