seeks India amid tensions in China


US wants to strengthen military ties with New Delhi, accusing Beijing of challenging “rules-based international order”

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin hosted a Pentagon meeting on Monday with Indian Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on ways to deepen their bilateral defense cooperation. the officials “reaffirmed their commitment to work together as steadfast partners to advance the United States and India’s shared vision for a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific,” the Pentagon said.

The main challenge to that vision — at least as Washington sees it — is China, which has sparked territorial disputes with several countries in the South China Sea. Beijing has also vowed to reunite with Taiwan, which it sees as a breakaway province. China and the US have increasingly clashed over Taiwan in recent months, especially after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the self-governing island in August, a move Beijing says undermined its sovereignty. China responded by severing military and climate ties with Washington and holding military exercises in the Taiwan Strait.

“Regional security is particularly important at this time, due to China’s increasing warmongering, especially with regard to Taiwan,” said Austin. “In recent months, we have seen the PRC step up its efforts to challenge the rules-based international order.”

Austin added that the US and India are facing “ongoing challenges to peace, security and prosperity around the world.” He also criticized Beijing for refusing to condemn and isolate Russia over the conflict in Ukraine.

“China continues to support Russia – a nation also seeking to overthrow the rules-based order – amid its unprovoked and brutal invasion of Ukraine,” said Austin.

However, the US has also failed to convince New Delhi to stop doing business with Russia. India has even sharply increased its imports of oil and coal from Russia this year. A US State Department official told reporters last week that Washington was in “deep” talks with Indian officials about the South Asian country’s reliance on Russian energy and weapons.

Jaishankar downplayed the Ukraine aspect of Monday’s meeting, saying: “I share with you that the global situation has become much more challenging this year [due to] various reasons, the Indo-Pacific in particular. It is important to ensure the stability, security and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific. This is possible, among other things, through cooperation between two countries.”

Austin hosted Indian Defense Secretary Rajnath Singh at the Pentagon in April and spoke with Singh by phone earlier this month. While both sides said the call was… “productive”, Singh has filed a complaint about a recent deal with the US to extend the life of Pakistan’s F-16 fighter jets.

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