Union minister of defence Rajnath Singh and his counterpart US defence secretary Lloyd Austin discussed the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan when both leaders met on Monday in Washington. India and the US agreed that Afghanistan cannot once again become fertile ground for spreading terror in the region and both nations agreed that Pakistan’s new government should also ensure that the Islamabad should not back terror elements.
Lloyd Austin, however, chose to seek India’s help to counter China in the Indo-Pacific. The release by the US department of defence shows that Lloyd Austin wants New Delhi closer to Washington despite the differences arising between both nations amid the war in Ukraine.
“Both democracies are worried about the People’s Republic of China, which seeks to refashion the region, and the international system more broadly, in ways that serve its interests,” Austin said. He further added that the United States stands with India in defending its sovereign interests.
Austin’s comments indicate that despite differences over trade and defence acquisitions from Russia, New Delhi still remains Washington’s necessary partner to counter Beijing. Austin also raised the border dispute between India and China across eastern Ladakh and also China’s disputed territorial claims in the South China Sea.
Austin, like his colleague, Blinken also tried to draw a parallel between Chinese aggression and Russia’s so-called ‘military action’ in Ukraine. “Beijing is not alone in its efforts to undermine the security of its neighbours… Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the humanitarian devastation that it has created are blatant attempts to undermine the international order,” Austin said.
Union minister Rajnath Singh pointed out that certain ‘actors’ continue to use terrorism as a statecraft to destabilise India. Austin and Singh both agreed that the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks and attacks on Pathankot airbase should be brought to justice.
“The use of terrorism as an instrument of statecraft against India came up prominently,” Singh said.
Both countries agreed to enhance defence cooperation, maritime cooperation and reaffirmed ‘importance of regular bilateral and multilateral exercises’. The leaders also discussed progress made with respect to the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA).