Just a week ahead of the crucial US presidential elections 2020, two of the senior most members of the Donald Trump administration are flying down to India for a 2+2 ministerial dialogue. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defence Mark Esper will arrive in India on October 26 for the meeting the next day with their respective counterparts, S Jaishankar and Rajnath Singh.
The visit of Secretary Pompeo is not limited to India. Post his stop in New Delhi, he will be heading to Sri Lanka, Maldives and Indonesia, the common factor among all these countries being that they fall in the Indo-Pacific region, and the renewed vigour to stress on free and open Indo-Pacific region specifically to counter China’s aggression.
Making it clear that the situation at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) will come up for discussion, US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Dean Thompson said, “Certainly, I think the situation on the Line of Actual Control will be… will probably be discussed at some point, and we’re watching the situation closely. I think both sides have expressed a desire to de-escalate violence.”
Meanwhile, responding to a question by News18.com with regard to whether the current support to counter China will continue post the US elections too, a senior administration official said that he had no reason to believe that in the event of a new administration the policy with regard to India will change. “Both parties are aligned on their interest in supporting and deepening of ties with India,” he added.
He said that the US government was closely monitoring the situation in the Himalayas and wanted to ensure that the situation doesn’t escalate. “We are providing support whether through defence sales, exercises as well as information sharing. These are the areas where we cooperate with India, not just relating to tensions in Himalayas,” said the official.
The developments on the Quad, too, have revolved around China. In this context, the senior US administration official said that an invitation to Australia to join the Malabar naval exercise in November “signals strategic convergence of Quad partners”.
As for the grouping itself, he clarified that it’s not an alliance nor is it formalised. There is no reciprocal obligation. However, it is a grouping of strong democracies that want a rules-based order in Indo-Pacific and is an example of multilateralism at its best. Though an expansion or a summit level meeting was ruled out immediately, he did add that “anything can happen in the future”.