India and the US reiterated their commitment to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific region in a direct challenge to China's "aggressive" and "expansionist" moves in the South China Sea
India and the US reiterated their commitment to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific region in a direct challenge to China's "aggressive" and "expansionist" moves in the South China Sea.
The commitment was made in a joint statement issued by the two countries in their third annual India-US 2+2 ministerial dialogue held in New Delhi, though China was not directly named in the statement.
US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and Secretary of Defence Mark T. Esper attended the meeting with Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar.
"The ministers reiterated their commitment to maintaining a free, open, inclusive, peaceful, and prosperous Indo-Pacific built on a rules-based international order, underpinned by ASEAN centrality, rule of law, sustainable and transparent infrastructure investment, freedom of navigation and overflight, mutual respect for sovereignty, and peaceful resolution of disputes," the joint statement said.
Highlighting the importance of securing the economic and security interests of all the stakeholders having a legitimate interest in the region, the two sides welcomed the growing understanding on the Indo-Pacific among the like-minded countries. They reaffirmed that closer India-US cooperation will support shared interests in promoting security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.
The two sides also said, "The code of conduct in the South China Sea should not prejudice the legitimate rights and interests of any nation in accordance with international law."
Building on a strong record of peacekeeping cooperation, the ministers decided to expand joint capacity-building efforts with partner countries in the Indo-Pacific and to participate in multilateral peacekeeping training exercises. They expressed their support for sustainable, transparent, quality infrastructure development in the Indo-Pacific region.
The two sides welcomed the inclusion of the Royal Australian Navy in the US-India-Japan Malabar Naval Exercise scheduled to be held in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea in November 2020.
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 (SELF) in 2023.
The ministers also announced that following the recent convening of the second Australia-India-Japan-US Quadrilateral Ministerial Meeting in Tokyo on October 6, 2020, the Quad consultations would now be held annually.
They expressed their support for further strengthening the Quad cooperation through expanded activities, including initiating a dialogue among the development organisations of partner countries.
The US will host the next 2+2 ministerial dialogue in 2021.
Meanwhile, Rajnath Singh called on American defence companies to invest in defence manufacturing in the country. After the 2+2 dialogue between India and the US, he said that military to military cooperation between both the countries is progressing very well.
"In the two days meeting, we also explored probable capacity building and other joint cooperation activities in third countries, including our neighbourhood and beyond," he said.
Singh also said that both India and the US shared an assessment of the security situation across the Indo-Pacific. "In that process, we reaffirmed our commitment to peace, stability and prosperity of all countries in this region," he said.
Esper said that India-US stand shoulder to shoulder for a free Indo-Pacific, particularly in view of China's growing aggression. He also said that the India-US partnership is more important than ever in view of growing security challenges.
Singh said that both the countries welcomed Australia joining the forthcoming Malabar Exercise. Esper too hailed Malabar Exercise involving the Quad countries and also inclusion of Australia. He also said hat signing of the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA) after signing of the LEMOA in 2016 and the COMCASA in 2018 is a significant achievement.