India and the US on Friday agreed to further strengthen the quadrilateral consultations with Australia and Japan, as officials of the two countries met virtually and discussed a range of bilateral, regional and multilateral issues, including combating COVID-19, counterterrorism and efforts to counteract recent destabilising actions in South Asia and the broader Indo-Pacific region.
During the virtual intersessional meeting of the US-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, the two sides welcomed the opportunity to discuss the US-India Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership, noting the increased closeness and cooperation across multiple areas of the relationship.
The US underscored the importance of India's status as a Major Defence Partner', growing military-to-military cooperation and other defence priorities, according to a statement issued by the State Department. During the meeting, the two sides discussed a range of bilateral, regional and multilateral issues, including combating COVID-19, counterterrorism, India's membership on the UN Security Council, support for good governance and sustainable development in the Indo-Pacific region, and efforts to counteract recent destabilising actions in South Asia and the broader Indo-Pacific region.
The US maintains that the world will not allow China to treat the strategically important South China Sea as its "maritime empire". Beijing claims almost all of the 1.3 million square mile South China Sea as its sovereign territory. China has been building military bases on artificial islands in the region also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
According to the State Department statement, Both sides (India and the US) agreed to further strengthen consultation through US-India-Australia-Japan Quadrilateral consultations" as they prepared for the 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue later this year. The American delegation was led by Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Dean Thompson and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs David Helvey.
Thompson and Helvey pledged to continue working with their Indian counterparts to advance the US-India partnership for the benefit of both the countries, the region and the world, the State Department added. The India-US talks came amidst tension along India's border with China. Indian and Chinese troops are engaged in a bitter standoff in several areas along the Line of Actual Control in mountainous eastern Ladakh.
India and China agreed on a five-point plan for resolving the prolonged border face-off, including quick disengagement of troops during talks between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Moscow on Thursday on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meet.